Ukrainian family settles in Wilmington after leaving war-ravaged home country

One family knew they had to get away from the raging war in Ukraine, and their journey led them to settling down in North Carolina.
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 9:50 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Silepov family knew they had to get away from the raging war in Ukraine, and their journey led them to settling down in North Carolina.

“I think our country needs help right now, because nobody can understand the aim of all the horrible things that Russians do in our land nowadays,” said Ivan Silepov, a Ukrainian refugee who along with his wife, Anastasia, and their twin sons, arrived in Wilmington on Tuesday.

Silepov first found out about the Russian invasion of his country while working on a merchant marine ship in South Korea. His first concern was his pregnant wife back home in Ukraine.

“Since she was pregnant with twins, it’s like not a common pregnancy. So it was complicated for her,” said Silepov.

Worried for the safety of his wife and his unborn children, Silepov eventually met Anastasia in Germany, where she gave birth to their twin boys. The couple hoped to establish themselves in Germany, but finding work in the country was easier said than done. After finding out the process of learning a new language and applying for jobs could take over a year, Silepov recalled details of a program that could give his family a new start.

“I remembered that there is a program, you know, for Ukrainians to go to United States,” he said. “Since I know English, I started thinking about where can I apply in English? Because I thought my industry is worldwide since I’m a merchant marine guy.”

The family needed to apply for sponsorships. Ivan and their two sons were quickly approved to be sponsored in the United States, but he ended up waiting for more than 100 days for his wife to be approved. Eventually, the entire family had the opportunity to come to the U.S.

Uniting for Ukraine and the power of social media led the family to the Rotary Club of Wilmington, whose members welcomed the Silepovs with open arms.

“Well, it’s very satisfying,” said Daniel Parks, a member of the Rotary Club of Wilmington. “You know, we had been video chatting, so we kind of knew each other, and we were sharing things on Facebook. So he recognized me and I recognized him immediately when we hooked up yesterday. We just want to get them off on the right foot. We want to see that they’re safe. We want to get them jobs, daycare, you know, feel comfortable.”

The Rotary club set the Silepov family up in a fully furnished apartment. Members are now helping the couple establish a bank account and work toward obtaining a driver’s license in their new home city.