On Thursdays, I volunteer in the lobby of Good Shepherd Hospital playing background piano music during the staff lunch hour. I was playing the song, The Shallow, when Olga asked if she could videotape me playing the song. We got to talking and I found out she was from Eastern Europe and had a job in the Ophthalmology department at the hospital. She needed help in English to pass an exam. I said, “I can help you since I used to teach ESL.” We got together about three times before the pandemic hit. She told me about her desire to have a baby, but that she had to be cancer free for 5 years before she could safely conceive. It has been four years now of being cancer free.
When the war in Ukraine hit on February 24, 2022, I thought of Olga and I still had her in my contacts. When I called, I did not know for sure where she was from. She called me back in tears telling me how her mother lived in the beautiful city of Kharkiv in Ukraine known for the arts and exquisite buildings. Her home town was being bombed and she feared for her mother, relatives and friends’ lives. She sent me a video of what the town looked like before and after the bombings. This was a first hand view of the war I had only seen on the news. My heart went out to Olga and her family. Her mother has decided to stay in Ukraine, but her husbands’ family of four came to live with them in April, 2022. There are now 7 people living in a small apartment in Buffalo Grove. The youngest is a 15 year old high school student named Nevor.
Larry and I decided to meet and gift them at their apartment one evening. We sat around their kitchen table hearing their stories and weeping with them. We tried to figure out how to help connect them to World Relief and Willow Creek’s Care Center. Not only did the whole family come to the Care Center for food, but Olga has applied to volunteer at the Care Center where they need her language skills for the many Ukrainian and Russian clients who will be entering their doors for food, clothing and medical help.
We had all seven of them over to our house on Sunday, May 29th. The men helped with lawn and tree removal in our yard. The woman earlier helped clean my house. They wanted to demonstrate their gratitude. They are hard-working and talented individuals. One is a nurse, the other has a degree in computer science and film directing, another has a factory job and an on-line business. The youngest is a student at Buffalo Grove High School. They are quickly learning English.We had a team meeting and lunch at my house recently to figure out ways we can pool our talents to help Ukraine in its fight for democracy and for the needs of the incoming immigrants. So far, they are very touched by the welcome Americans have given them.