In the year since the Russian invasion, around 110,000 Ukrainians have come to the U.S. to find stable, if temporary, homes. Some have made those homes in North Carolina.
The government’s Uniting for Ukraine program grants people a two-year “humanitarian parole” in the U.S., as long as they have a sponsor. For some that’s been family or friends; for most, non-profits have stepped in to help find temporary homes. How long most will stay remains unclear.
Joshua Steadman, a Raleigh-based director and photographer, spent time with some of those new arrivals for a photo essay on their lives here. Most are women and children, as Ukrainian men — unless they have 3 or more children —generally can’t leave the country as they will likely be called to military duty as the war drags on.
“Everyone will be,” said Yuliia Sidliarenko, a mother of two from Kyiv now living in Cary.
Siliarenko said more than 10 families from Ukraine are living in her apartment complex. There are “people from Mariupol, people from Kharkiv.”
Svetlana Golotsevich and her 2-year-old son, Mark, came to Wilmington, N.C. in December. Originally from Belarus, Golotsevich moved to Ukraine in 2018, where she met her husband. When the war began, the couple didn’t know what to do since they have a small child. “It’s hard alone, and a man can’t leave,” she said.
Golotsevich and her son traveled to Western Ukraine then returned to Kyiv during a brief respite in fighting. But attacks resumed in October, and blackouts could last a day or two. Access to water and heat was spotty.
Golotsevich decided to leave and began looking for a sponsor. She registered with Welcome.US, a program to help resettle people from Afghanistan and Ukraine. She found a private sponsor in Wilmington, N.C. through the local Rotary Club who helped with transportation and resettlement costs.
Her friend Nataliya Melnik made her way to Wilmington as well. The two have been friends since they were 16 and attended university together, where they’d studied marketing and economics. Later, Golotsevich worked as a manager at a wholesale fabric company, and Melnik worked as a seamstress.
When the war began last February, Melnik, her husband, and daughter were in Kyiv: “We didn’t go anywhere… we spent the whole month sleeping and living in the basement.”
Golotsevich encouraged her to leave. “There were moments when I was at work, and my child was at school, an air raid alarm began, and the children sat in the basement for three or four hours,” said Melnik.
Now Melnik, Golotsevich, and their two young children share a guest house in Wilmington a local sponsor has provided. Both expressed hope for a stable life for their families in North Carolina.
“We had friends here in America, they kept saying ‘Go, go!’” said Golotsevich.
Sidliarenko, a mother of two from Kyiv, didn’t want to leave their home. “Our government said that this war will finish—after two or three weeks, we can come back,” she said.
“All my friends went to Poland, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria. But I didn’t want to go anywhere because for me it’s like I trusted what the government told me.”
She changed her mind when the United States started accepting Ukrainians: “I understood that this war will be a very long time, because America is the last country that would open their border.”
The family arrived in Holly Springs last June, where they lived with a sponsor family for three months. They are now in their own apartment in Cary.
“I’m very thankful to them because we came here, and my children now are in a safe place.”
The war in Ukraine has come to North Carolina in other ways as well. On January 28, protestors gathered outside the Capitol Building in Raleigh to raise awareness of the ecological damage the Russian invasion is inflicting upon Ukraine’s environment and wildlife.
Fine Whines and Lickers, a non-profit dog rescue organization, organized the protest with support from Ukrainians in the Carolinas, one of several nonprofits working to send support to Ukraine.
Joshua Steadman is a director and photographer based in Raleigh. See more of his work here.