Finding refuge in the Northland: Local couple takes in Ukrainian Refugee.

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- When war broke out in Ukraine, Lana’s life turned upside down, forcing her to flee the country.

“It’s a really difficult way for saving my life; But I don’t have a choice because my area is still in occupation,” Lana said, going only by her first name to protect herself and others back home.

Lana made it out of Ukraine, and eventually ended up in Sweden.

She felt even there she was too close to the country that invaded her hometown.

“I posted my story on Facebook, I thought I need to do this. At least I could try,” she said.

Halfway across the world in Duluth, Bill and Maureen Ulvi had just said goodbye to another refugee couple that had been staying with them.

“We then had space in our home again and resumed that search where we found Lana. We spoke with her, typed back and forth and then video chatted. It seemed like it would be a good match and so we proceeded to sponsor,” said Bill.

It didn’t take Lana long to accept their offer, but she was worried about money.

“I told Maureen in writing that I don’t have the money for the ticket and she writes me back, ‘Okay. We can do it for you,’” she said.

With money covered, Lana boarded a flight to the US.

“[There were] a lot of people meeting me in the airport with flowers, with presents with smiling, open souls and all I said was ‘wow,’” Lana said.

The Ulvis and their church, Trinity Lutheran Church, welcomed Lana in.

“We couldn’t not do it. Everybody has complications in your life, but nothing as complicated as being a refugee from war,” Bill said.

Lana is appreciative of the opportunity but says her future is uncertain.

“It’s very difficult... we have a beautiful country,” she said.

Still, she says she was drawn to America because it reminded her of her home.

“And I came here because you have the same spirit,” she said.

Bill said it’s easy to forget what’s happening in Ukraine, but urges people to continue their support.

“Here you can watch the news and keep track of what’s going on or you can ignore it. I think if you ignore it, it seems less serious or less important,” he said.

Under the United States Government’s Uniting for Ukraine Program, Ukrainian refugees can stay in the country for two years as long as they have a sponsor who agrees to financially support them where needed.

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