Naples woman helping mother and daughter Ukrainian refugees

Published: May 25, 2022 4:32 PM EDT
Updated: May 25, 2022 6:54 PM EDT

A mother and daughter escaping the war in Ukraine have ended up in Southwest Florida. Thanks to a local woman and organization, the two Ukrainian refugees are now being helped.

A local group is helping those coming from Ukraine, and a woman from the organization, United Ukrainian Volunteers in Naples, is hosting the mother and daughter.

The mother and her daughter woke up to war three months ago and decided they had to go.

“As soon as we heard the news that occupants would come into people’s homes and would shoot them no questions asked, I knew I had to escape,” said Hanna Stepanuk, a Ukrainian refugee.

Getting from Ukraine to the safety of Southwest Florida was not easy. Hanna Stepanuk and her daughter Victoria took multiple bus and train trips and saw things no one should have to see.

“To me, this is like a nightmare that I cannot wake up from. This was the best decision at the time and what I had to do. I was never planning to come to America. Two months ago, I never would’ve imagined myself being here. I felt like I had to protect my daughter,” said Stepanuk.

The family lived just south of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The sound of the Russian bombs and sirens sounding still blare in their minds.

“As we were escaping on a train, there were even more bombings happening on our way. It’s just a miracle that it didn’t hit us. Somehow, we missed it,” said Stepanuk.

When Julia Gray saw the images of Ukrainian families fleeing their homeland, she felt she had to do something.

“I’ve known them since I was a child. They’re from my hometown,” said Gray.

She’s part of United Ukrainian Volunteers, an organization based in Naples.

“We don’t know how long she’s going to stay. We don’t know how long it’s going to last. We don’t know if it’s going to be a year, or she may have to stay here for the rest of her life. But I know she’s doing her best to save her daughter,” said Gray.

Stepanuk said she’s already lived her life and now wants to help her daughter do the same.

They hope to return to Ukraine when the war is over. They say they hope to return to a free Ukraine.

If you’d like to help Hanna and Viktoria or learn more about the United Ukrainian Volunteers group, you can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.