Ukrainian family arrives in West Fargo

A family from war-torn Ukraine woke up in West Fargo on Friday morning, Jan. 13. It is their first full day in North Dakota.

The Bolba family in a rural West Fargo cabin Friday, Jan. 13. The family had arrived in Fargo earlier in the week from worn-torn Ukraine.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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WEST FARGO — Just over 100 people have arrived in our state this past year through the formal sponsorship program called Uniting for Ukraine. Now instead of avoiding gunfire and bombings in their home country, they are getting a taste of a North Dakota winter.

When the Bolba family landed in Fargo on Thursday, Jan. 12, the Ukrainian family hugged those who made their trip possible. Former Cass County Commissioner Ken Pawluk is actually related to the family.

Pawluk's grandfather came to North Dakota from Ukraine, and several years ago, Pawluk and his family traveled to Ukraine to meet relatives.

The state of North Dakota has approved the sponsorship requests from 230 Ukrainians. Pawluk went through the sponsorship process to bring them from a troubled Ukraine to a peaceful cabin in Cass County.

"I thought what the commitment was that I was making, and honestly, they were just asking me to sponsor them," Pawluk said. "But I just really don't think you can just bring them over and turn them loose, and so it just so happens that we had this cabin available and space that would accommodate the whole family."


It will take some getting used to.

"I don't believe the 6-year-old boy has been to school because of the war," Pawluk said.

There are challenges arriving in a new place. There is the language barrier, registering for schools and applying for jobs. But the Bolbas, along with two girls, Sofia and Maryna, and 6-year-old Timothy knew they had to get out of Ukraine.

Olha Bolbas is an accountant, and her husband Mikola Bolbas had his own business. Shortly after Christmas, they left their home and everything behind to find a new life in North Dakota. They know it will not be easy.

"(I)t could be shooting in the neighborhood, or it could be shooting in the neighbor state, but because (of the) kids, they just want to keep the kids out of school for a little bit," said Mikola Bolba through interpreter Irina Tyulandina.

More from WDAY's Kevin Wallevand

Tyulandina is a Ukrainian from West Fargo who acted as interpreter for the family for WDAY News.

"(It is) a little scary, it's a different country, different culture, for everyone who's coming here, you don't know, the first, the biggest (obstacle) is language," Olha Bolbas said.

The one thing they brought with them is a special Ukrainian doll as a gift for the Pawluks. A touching way to thank them for sponsoring and getting them here.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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