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Ukrainian family finds temporary home with Carmel Valley empty nesters

Posted at 11:12 PM, Mar 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-20 02:12:46-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As hundreds of Ukrainians try and find refuge in San Diego, one family has found a temporary home. That home, is all thanks to a Carmel Valley couple who decided to open their doors and their hearts.

Like many other families, the Kovalchuk's traveled thousands of miles, through numerous countries, just to touch American soil and feel safe.

"For me it means a lot, it means a lot," laughs Olga Kovalchuk, with tears in her eyes.

For this mom, the outpouring our community has shown her and her three children, is a blessing she can't even put into words.

"This is a gift of God. I appreciate it a lot," Olga says with a smile. "We are in paradise now."

On March 1st, Olga tells ABC10 News, she fled the only place she's called home.

"When people send me photos I just try to delete them as quickly as possible, to not tickle my nerves," she shares. "Because it's really terrible."

After spending days in a basement, hiding from the war that surrounded them she took what little they had and fled. Olga says her family moved from their home near Kyiv, to Romania, then Hungary, Slovakia, and then landed in the Czech Republic. From there she decided they would go Paris, fly to Mexico City, go to Tijuana, and then cross the border to America.

"We couldn't predict the situation, we tried to do the best we were afraid to make the wrong decision." Olga then looks down at her children with a smile, "But I think we made the right decision."

Olga hugs her three children, Max who is fifteen, Ruslan who is six, and Anna who is four.

She says she now knows that they are safe, "This means everything to me. I have never been treated in such a kind way."

It's a kindness that was shown to her by San Diego firefighter Zach, and his wife Carolyn O'Neill. The empty-nesters heard their story and wanted to help.

"We have beds, the children need beds and we wanted just somewhere where Olga could be a mom," explains Carolyn. "And just give her space to be mother."

Carolyn says that there really wasn't any planning, just doing. And now she is back to having a full house.

But Olga's heart still has a piece missing. Her 10-year-old daughter Sophia is still overseas.

"She's alone," explains her mother. Olga furthers that her daughter was supposed to meet her at the border the day they fled, but her ex-husband failed in his promise to meet them.

Olga says that she hopes to go back for her. But in the meantime, she says she has to try and remain strong.

She says her focus now is on what is in front of her: her other three other children, and the new life she hopes to create in San Diego.

Olga says that she and the kids have been dealing with changes that have not been easy.

But they are adjusting.

"It's so different," shares the oldest Max. "In Ukraine it's cold and here it's hot. There's palm trees. I like palm trees!" he says with a laugh.

They are all learning to find joy in small things, like new toys and new experiences. Carolyn says her friends have been recruited to help, something Olga says has been life-changing.

It's what's caused this Ukrainian mother to find hope in stranger's big gestures.

"People are very friendly," Olga says. "People are very compassionate."

Olga shares that she speaks five langauges, and hopes to find a career that would allow her to utilize her skills.

Max says he has 70 medals to his name, as he was a professional swimmer in Ukraine. Anna has a love for dance, along with her brother Ruslan. Ruslan also has a love for music and plays the piano.

Olga hopes all of her children will be able to pursue their passions once again.

If you would like to help this family, you can visit their gofundme.