NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — This week marks nine months since Russia invaded Ukraine.
As students in Connecticut were settling into their new classrooms this fall, many Ukrainians were on their way here seeking safety. News 8’s Laura Hutchinson had a chance to visit a student in North Haven who is now getting used to life in a Connecticut classroom.
While those of us in the U.S. watched the events in Ukraine unfold on TV, 16-year-old Daniil Yermakov lived it.
“We had to walk one-and-a-half miles to the border to cross so that we could pass it,” said Yermakov.
Today, he sits in a quiet North Haven High School classroom, soaking up the feeling of safety.
“I just feel really nice here because of the environment,” he noted.
He’s safe from the war and airstrikes, which he left behind in Ukraine just a few months ago when Russian troops invaded.
“We couldn’t leave our home from 6 p.m. until 7 a.m. so nobody can get in any trouble,” he recalled.
Yermakov is just one of several Ukrainian families calling Connecticut their home since March.
“Between 15 and 20 families that are spread out from New Haven all the way to Bristol, New Britain, Southington,” said Fatima Hassan, an education assistant for IRIS. “They’re just spread all over Connecticut.”
In a short amount of time, Yermakov has not only found safety, but he’s doing well in school, too. He even experienced his first Halloween!
He also exclaimed that he is excited about what is ahead.
“The upcoming event, homecoming,” he said. “We don’t have that in Ukraine and I’m really glad that I can experience it and see with my eyes, what is it actually.”
Yermakov’s excitement is a relief for his parents.
“It’s been a tough several months so but we get here and it’s a relief so, we can just breathe,” said Yermakov’s father.
Yermakov’s mother and father are both emotional and grateful.
“What’s impressed us is the people. How much you know everybody cares,” they said.
The town is extending a “key to the city” as a gesture to say welcome to North Haven, and welcome home.
Meanwhile, Yerkamov is focused on one new goal in particular.
“Finish this year in an American school,” he said.
While the Yermakovs are settling into their new home here in Connecticut, friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe page to help them acclimate.
According to the fundraiser’s organizer, the funds will be used to pay for their work permit, the cost of living in general, and buying Christmas gifts!
The fundraiser will be up until Christmas Eve, so if you want to help the Yermakovs for the holidays, go online to donate now.