Olga’s Story

“06880” reader Olga Olha Kyrychenko writes:

I am a Ukrainian, American, Odessian and Westporter, all at the same time. This is my story.

My family left our home in Odessa and came to United States about 2 years ago. Back in Ukraine my husband had an office job as a tariff broker. I was raising our 2 sons, preparing to return to my career in telecommunications.

We thought we had a good life, but we also had a feel it could be over. It was scary to leave all behind and come to the US, but we did it for our boys, for the future, for a better life. We embraced the American dream so many seek.

Olga and her sons.

We arrived in the US in the middle of the COVID pandemic with no language, jobs, or home of our own. Even though it has not been an easy journey, we were incredibly grateful to begin a new life in such a diverse and compassionate community as Westport.

Olgla and her husband, in the US.

Within a week my husband joined a construction crew, even though he had no idea how to handle tools. I have been helping our boys with the cultural transition and learning English. Not long ago, I began babysitting to contribute to our family income.

As challenging as it has been for us, we struggled to accept that our home, Ukraine, would be engulfed in war soon after our departure. Our families have been forced to leave their homes and communities, and lost all sense of safety and security. Their children live in constant fear and confusion. We have been trying to help them any way we could.

As if navigating these events weren’t enough, on April 23 we found ourselves staring at our own home in Odessa being televised on fire, and posted on every social media platform. It was destroyed when an errant missile slammed into the side of our apartment building.

One view of the bombed apartment building in Odessa …

You may have seen the news that a little baby girl and her family died in that building. They were our neighbors.

More people died who the news did not cover. Even more are out of their homes. Close to 200 people don’t have a place to live.

… and another.

Our hearts are breaking for our neighbors whose lives were lost or changed, and for the reality of homelessness for our nephew and his girlfriend who miraculously escaped.

We consider ourselves lucky to be here and alive, and desperately want to help in any way we can. But we have very limited resources. With humility, we ask you to please consider donating anything you can. This money will go directly to the families of the victims, and toward rebuilding a place we used to call our home.

Please click here for the link to a GoFundMe page I started.

Thank you, and God bless!

(Hat tip: Elena Shmonina)

Memorial to victims outside the Odessa apartment building.

9 responses to “Olga’s Story

  1. Thanks, Dan, for posting “Olga’s Story”. It movingly illustrates the suffering that the Ukrainian people are experiencing

    BUT I also have to say it also sounds like a scam. Other than a couple of uses of Westport and Westporter, there is nothing to indicate that Olga exists or lives in Westport. I could easily imagine setting up a few dozen or hundred GoFundMe pages, one for each affluent community that I want to target, and sending out the same story with the community name changed, either via email or sites like 06880.

    Dan, have you actually. meet with Olga ** in person ** ?

    • I have not. If this is a scam, it is a VERY thoroughly done one. The thought of a scam never crossed my mind. GoFundMe is not generally thought of as a place for scams.

  2. There are lots of scams on GoFundMe, and dozens of articles about how to avoid them (just search the Internet for gofundme scams).

    The article is well written, but, as I wrote earlier, there’s nothing that really links it to Westport: no photos by the cannons at Compo Beach, no stories about going to Longshore, naming helpful neighbors, what schools the kids attend, etc.

    Of course, living in Westport wouldn’t be proof that it’s not a scam, but it would rule out a large-scale scam, which is what this looks like to me.

    I’d be much happier if Olga recommended donating to some charitable organizations which support Ukraine, ones that I could independently verify to be legitimate.

    • This isn’t about you and Dan didn’t post it to make you happy.
      Sending Olga and her family best wishes!

    • Liliya Endres

      Hi Jon. Olga is my sister. She is as real as she gets and her boys do not know that they won’t be able to go back and visit the home they were born in any time soon. We are trying to keep them from the horrors of the news and would like some respect in regards to their privacy. If I tell you how many tears and how much shame she had to get through in order to agree to put her story out there, I would need another page for an article. I helped put the post into words in English because she does not speak or write it. Our family has always been the one to help others and we rarely ask for help. If anyone knows anything about our culture, being tough and going through challenges with one’s head held high is how we were raised. I have been working with school children teaching them kindness, self-confidence, and compassion for others for 20 years here in the US. One important thing I have learned myself from teaching is that what makes one really strong is faith in his or her community and courage to ask for help when one needs it. This is what helps us know that we are not the only ones empowered to help the situation to get better or comfort someone’s heart.
      No hard feelings if you can’t connect with our pledge for help. If you are still in doubt about my family’s identity and it is important for you to verify it, let Dan know, please.

  3. I should have mentioned earlier that Olga did not send me the story. It came from Elena Shmonina, who I gave a hat tip to at the end. She identified herself as of Russian descent, living in Westport, and said she knew Olga because their children are friends. I had no reason to doubt her whasoever.

    • Elena Shmonina

      I am in shock to read the scam comment, it’s absolutely bizarre logic that someone would pick a local blog to scam. I know Olga personally my kids met her kids in a summer camp last year, I got to know Olga and her family, helped her husband with a job, they are the most outstanding people I met recently. I visited their house that they rent in Westport and my kids spent time playing there. They are good people! I facilitated the piece to be published by Dan, I live in Westport, you can google my name and I am an admin at Westport Back Porch. Feel free to reach out if you need in person meeting ….

      • Jon Bullard

        Local blogs are not targeted directly.

        Instead, it works like this: a scammer writes a “help, please send money” email and sends it to millions of addresses from a spam list. Of the millions of recipients, some will propagate it on social media (Facebook, next-door, etc.) or submit it to a local blog like 06880.

        One of the signs of such an email (and which I noticed in the post) is that there is nothing other than the use of the town name to identify it as actually being from someone from that town. No mentions or photos of themselves at local landmarks, no description of recent events in the town, no naming of local officials or celebrities — nothing that can be verified.

        Thanks for your offer of an in-person meeting, but that’s not necessary as I am now satisfied that this isn’t a scam.

  4. maryschmerker

    Thank you Lilya , Olga and Dan for posting this. I am involved in Texas with starting assistance and in touch with a family who has relatives currently in Ukraine who are sheltering people who are displaced. I have great faith in the generous hearts of West porters to step up and help during this crisis.