“Maybe you can help save someone’s life”

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NEW MILFORD – Jill Hodge has always had a thing for helping immigrants. It comes from its roots.

His grandparents came to the United States from Eastern Europe.

“One set was from Poland and the other from Czechoslovakia. They came as immigrants, young, and they didn’t speak a word of English,” said Hodge, 57, a New Milford resident.

When Hodge heard about an opportunity to sponsor a Ukrainian immigrant, she quickly applied and now lives with 20-year-old Tetiana (Tanya) Yarosh.

“The situation with the war in Ukraine is so insane and, you know, it could have been my grandparents sitting there,” Hodge said.

The program, called Uniting for Ukraine, offers Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States a pathway to come to the United States and stay there for two years, according to its website. Participating Ukrainians must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States.

Uniting for Ukraine operates through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“You just applied on the government site,” Hodge said. “They kind of streamlined it, for faster approvals.”

Hodge heard about Uniting for Ukraine in April through a Facebook page titled USA/Canada/Americas: Host, Sponsor, Help Ukraine, for which she is a moderator.

“There were people on the Ukraine Facebook page posting that they were looking for a sponsor, as well as information about themselves like their age and whether they had kids,” Hodge said.

“There are 21.2,000 members, mostly Ukrainians, who are looking for sponsors,” she said.

When Hodge came across Yarosh’s message, she said she thought they would make a good match.

“I wanted a young girl, to give her an opportunity,” said Hodge, who is a legal and contract support specialist at FuelCell Energy in Danbury.

Hodge and Yarosh started messaging each other through Facebook, then went on a video call to get to know each other better.

Hodge sent her information about the town of New Milford, so Yarosh could find out where she would be living.

The sponsorship process was pretty quick, she says.

“She got her travel clearance and she just wanted to wait two or three weeks to get things done in Ukraine,” Hodge said. “And then she flew over.”

Sponsor fees are settled between each sponsor and beneficiary.

“Some people showed that they had financial means, that they had plane tickets. Tanya did not have the plane ticket. She is young. So I agreed to pay for her plane ticket” , she said. “It’s a personal choice.”

The two women first met in person at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in late June.

“One of the first things she said when we got back from the airport was, ‘Oh, do you have any gas?’ They don’t have gas there in some places,” Hodge said.

Yarosh’s entire family is still in Ukraine, where the war, which began on February 24 with the Russian invasion, is still going on.

“There is a curfew that residents must follow,” Hodge said. “The sirens go off every day. There is not any work. Many people are unemployed. »

Besides her parents, brother and sister, Yarosh has a husband, Dima, whom she married a few days before leaving for the United States.

“She told me she never thought she would get married before she was 26, but she said all young people in Ukraine get married and have children early because they don’t know not whether they’re going to live or die,” Hodge said. .

Yarosh hopes her husband will one day be able to come to New Milford. However, she said men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country.

One of Yarosh’s first goals is to find a job, but to do that she must first apply for a work permit, which “takes months,” Hodge said.

In the meantime, she spends her time acclimating to her new surroundings and adjusting to America’s culture and way of life.

“She’s trying to improve her English,” Hodge said.

To help communicate with each other, they sometimes use an app called Google Translate. Most of the time, however, they don’t need to rely on that. Through body language and expressions, both women can usually tell what the other is trying to say.

Hodge quickly learned that Yarosh is an excellent cook and prepares many local dishes.

“She makes vareniki, which looks like Polish pierogi. She makes the dough and the filling — usually potatoes, or potatoes and cheese, mushrooms — from scratch,” Hodge said. “Last Sunday morning I woke up to the aromas of potato, onions and butter and I had a beautiful plate waiting for me for breakfast. It really takes me back to my childhood; my mother and my aunts made it.

Hodge said Yarosh also makes butter cookies and kolachy — a fruit-filled cookie and cheesecake with a baked cookie crust.

“They’re amazing,” Hodge said.

Hodge plans to continue supporting Yarosh until Yarosh is able to work.

Hodge said he would like to take Yarosh to see Manhattan – as well as elsewhere in the United States

“Hopefully she gets to see a lot of different things in the United States and is able to embrace the experience.

Hodge encourages those who can to sponsor someone from Ukraine.

“It’s really gratifying to help someone fleeing war. You hear about all the atrocities there,” she said. “Maybe you can help save someone’s life and also give them a great opportunity to be in the United States and get by.”

[email protected] 203-948-9802


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