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Santa Barbara County welcomes its first family from war-torn Ukraine

GOLETA, Calif. - News Channel 3-12 shares a glimpse of the indestructible bond between two families, separated by war and 6,000 miles, in this exclusive story.

Bogdan Prikhitko welcomed our crew into his family's home in Goleta that he shares with his wife, Tatiana, and the youngest of their three daughters.

Bogdan and Tatiana Prikhitko (Courtesy: Herb Tuyay/KEYT)

"What can you do to help your relatives? Everything, right?" asked Bogdan.

"I have a lot of joy that I can help, especially with this difficult time," said Tatiana.

Tatiana's sister, Oksana, her husband, Maksym, and their four daughters now also call Goleta "home."

We sat around the dining room table and learned how the family of six was adjusting to their new life.

"First, say thanks for all the help, for all the things (they) do for us," said Maksym.

"Everything is ok," said Oksana. "You (referring to her current situation) live in a nice city with beautiful people. You have everything but, you like under stress and anxiety because you see news and read this news and it's not very pleasant."

Korniichuk Family (left to right) Maksym, Anna, Sofiia, Solmeer, Marta, Oksana (Courtesy: Herb Tuyay/KEYT)

The Korniichuks spent the past months living in hell in and around their native home of Rivne, in western Ukraine. Maksym begins to talk about their decision to finally leave as Bogdan translated for his brother-in-law.

"When the war started and everything started, and bombing, he decided to run for safety for children, for wife, so they don't have to go through what we see right now on the news."

More than one week after crossing into California from the border in Tijuana, the Korniichuck family -- who longed to see America one day -- finds itself in a safe, loving community. Support from their relatives is bolstered by a collective embrace from members of the First Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church of Santa Barbara just minutes away.

(Courtesy: Pastor Mikhail Smiyun)

However, their calm appearance belies a state of shock, pushing away stories and images of death and destruction in their war-torn homeland.

"I understand maybe they have some orders to capture area but not kill innocent people, civilians, old people, children. For me it's shocked," said Oksana.

"They tortured," said Maksym.

The family left relatives and friends behind, some in Ukraine, others in Poland and other parts of Europe. They have no idea what has happened to their home.

(Courtesy: Korniichuk Family)

They shared pictures of their lives before the war; beautiful Rivne in winter snow, images of their travels, celebrations, their strong faith, and their daughters' musical talents.

(Courtesy: Korniichuk Family)

Oksana and Maksym are mindful about the impacts on their children. 

"We talk a lot," said Oksana. "For younger, it's easier. For oldest, it's maybe more difficult."

"And try to think positive," said Maksym.

The four girls are adjusting to a new way of life and the 10-hour time difference.

15-year-old Marta became emotional when she described how her friends are now scattered around the world.

"I really didn't want to tell my friends that I will be in USA, but when I talk they was crying," she said. "It was stressful for them, and me also because we couldn't see each other for a long time. We do not know when we will return. It's stress for all of us."

Trips to the beach and their cousin's pet rabbit are helping with the transition. So is naming their new, favorite American food.

11-year-old Anna and 8-year-old Solmeer both love ice cream and swimming in the community pool; 14-year-old Sofiia has discovered a love of In & Out and Starbucks.

Marta smiled and said, overall, connecting with her friends online helps keep up her spirits.

"I think things most important in your life is your relationship with your friends and family because your clothes, your stuff, you can lose it in one second. Our home, our everything, in one day."

Each girl is excited to start school in the Goleta area.

As for Maksym and Oksana, who both taught in Ukraine, navigating the red tape of work permits and forms is taking time. They also hope to rent a home of their own during their 363-day humanitarian parole.

"We are very grateful for your help, for your support and we want to ask you, pray for Ukraine because God can make miracle for our country," said Oksana.

Author Profile Photo

Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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