Ukrainian kids who lost fathers in Russian invasion given trip to Seattle, 'away from explosions'
SEATTLE - Members of the Seattle community have come together to embrace and welcome a group of children whose fathers died or went missing in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and ongoing war.
Dressed in the colors of Ukraine, 11 children lined up at the Great Wheel on Saturday to take a spin.
"I think this is the best experience they are having in their lives, to be uplifted on the beautiful Great Wheel of Seattle," said Vitaliy Piekhotin, Ukrainian Army Chaplain & Volunteer in the War in Ukraine and UkrHelp Foundation Assistant. "They experience freedom, [winds] of change, from post combat zones to getting into the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave."
FOX 13 News spoke with two of the children, Sasha and Severyn, about their experiences in Seattle. Sasha told us that she thought the area was "beautiful."
Speaking through a translator, Sasha also told us that she "liked the height", and she liked being, "high up in the skies."
Severyn said he was happy to be able to ride the Great Wheel and had always "dreamed of being in an observation wheel."
The trip was made possible with sponsorship from the UkrHelp Foundation of Seattle. It gave the youngsters an opportunity to have some fun and get a different perspective on the world.
"It’s only the beginning, but we can continue, and I would ask everyone to support Ukrainian kids," said Alex Dudko, Founder and CEO of the UkrHelp Foundation.
"Take them out of the context they are living now—away from the sirens, away from explosions," said Alik Bidzilya, Administrator and Youth Pastor at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Kent. "We call them Gold Star children. These are kids that lost their dads in the current war of Russian aggression right now in Ukraine."
Bidzilya says prior to the Seattle visit, the kids also went to Washington D.C. for "Ukrainian Week." He says there they met members of Congress and did other activities. The kids were also treated to a trip to the top of the Space Needle Saturday before heading to the Great Wheel, Miner's Landing, and Wings Over Washington. The Director of Operations there said that the Griffith family was more than happy to host the kids at Pier 57.
"We are just really excited to have them down here at Pier 57, Miner’s Landing and really do our part in such an unfortunate circumstance and really bring some joy to the moment today on this great sunny day," said Nick Novello, Director of Operations & Culinary, Miner’s Landing.
"Kids love the ocean. A lot of them have never seen it and when they see a body of water that’s never-ending, it kind of rocks their world a little bit," said Bidzilya.
Organizers say the trip offered a chance for spirits to soar, futures to potentially change, and for young imaginations to once again take flight.
"Finally start thinking about, going from that more dark perspective, to seeing more light in their future. See their future, what they can do," said Albina Terpetska, Neuro-Linguistic Programing Practitioner, Family Relationship Coach and family therapy student. "See the world around you, what’s possible for them."
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Dudko says you can support the efforts of the UkrHelp Foundation online. He plans to bring more kids to Seattle in the future.