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Ukrainian couple finds peace in Rancho Mirage after escaping war-ridden country

Ukrainian couple finds peace in Rancho Mirage after escaping war-ridden country

The war in Ukraine has led to millions of refugees escaping the country and seeking a new life elsewhere, including here in the United States. A Ukrainian husband and wife have been able to safely make it to Rancho Mirage thanks to the help of two residents.

Tetiana and Volodymir Kotenko were living in their home in Kyiv when Russian forces invaded on February 24, 2022.

Just two days prior to that, Tetiana posted a photo of the view from her apartment building on a Facebook group called, "View from my Window." Carol Adams, a Rancho Mirage resident, responded to the photo, and from there started speaking with Tetiana daily. It was an unexpected friendship.

Tetiana Kotenko posts a photo taken from her apartment just two days prior to the war starting, on a Facebook group called "View from my window."

As bombs began dropping in Ukraine, Carol worried for her new friend, and pleaded for her to leave and seek safety.

Tetiana however said as a journalist she was told the war wasn't going to last very long, and to just hunker down. It became evident nearly a month later, that it wasn't going to end anytime soon. The Kotenkos decided to leave their home, and head west to safety.

The Kotenkos traveled with a friend to Lviv, but the journey there was anything but easy.

A translator who speaks both Ukrainian and English helped the couple translate their experiences.

“It was very hard for us because at the time we were leaving, the Russian occupation was 40 kilometers from the capital city of Kyiv," explained Volodymir. "The Russians had already occupied the northwestern portion of Ukraine. The western bound roads that most of the refugees traveled had snipers shooting people as they were leaving the country.”

Volodymir begins his journey to Lviv with his wife Tetiana and a friend.

As Volodymir remembered the difficult journey, he still can't hold back tears of the fear he felt trying to get out.

It took two days for the Kotenkos and their friend to make it to Lviv. This was when they said they were actually finally able to get a good night's sleep for the first time in a while.

From there, the Kotenko's journey to the United States began. They traveled to Poland as millions of other refugees have done. However, Tetiana said she learned Ireland had fewer refugees so they then began their journey there.

Tetiana and Volodymir Kotenko begin their travels to Ireland.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Carol and her husband Neil Adams began the process to get the Kotenkos into the country to live with them.

It was through the Uniting for Ukraine Program they were able to get the Kotenkos to Rancho Mirage. It did take a few months to get through the entire process.

Now the Kotenkos are trying to navigate their new life and find a new routine. While they are safe in their new temporary home, they still worry about their loved ones who were left behind.

“We keep in contact with our dear ones almost every day, in fact, every day," said Tetiana. "I hope our cat is doing good at mother's house. For reasons the war has created, certain people cannot leave Ukraine at this point. Our family still cannot leave."

The couple still worries for their son and his wife, Volodymir's mother, and their cat. They're hoping one day they can return to Ukraine, and live the simple peaceful life they once did.

“We would like to have our life prior to February 24th when I woke up in the morning, my husband made a cup of coffee, we made breakfast together, we went for rides on bicycles near the woods," said Tetiana. "We just want that normalcy of a regular day prior to February 24th.”

Article Topic Follows: News
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Crystal Jimenez

Crystal Jimenez is a news reporter who joined the KESQ News Channel 3 team in June 2021. Learn more about Crystal here.


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