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Family of Ukrainian refugees in Knoxville needs community support

Julie Tryukhan's husband had to stay behind and fight. She and her two children are trying to start a new life in East Tennessee.

FARRAGUT, Tenn. — From uncertainty to safety — a family fleeing the war in Ukraine has made it to Knoxville safely. They said they need help to get back on their feet. 

A mother and a young son and daughter are now in East Tennessee without their father, Dima, who is still in Ukraine. He had to stay behind and fight. Julie Tryukhan and her two children, Mark and Polina, are now trying to restart a life here. 

A partnership between the International Rotary Club and Farragut Rotary Club helped Tryukhan and her two children get out of wartorn Ukraine. Tryukhan lived with the Vogel family around 15 years ago as a foreign exchange student through the Rotary Clubs. Now she is back for a different reason. 

"War is scary and I never thought that would become our reality," she said. "We woke up from the sound of explosions."

Their startling confusion, she said, quickly grew into fear. Travel routes were backed up for miles while they tried to evacuate. She said they were stuck in Kyiv for three days, inside the basement of a 16-floor apartment complex, while the war raged outside.

"It was not safe down there. If our house got hit and it crumbled then it becomes a trap," Tryukhan said. "People were just standing in the hall with their kids and their pets and all of their stuff and it was scary."

That time passed and the family was able to secure a spot on an evacuation train. The family of four made it farther from the attacks, but not far enough for her husband to avoid it. The Ukrainian military called him to fight on the front lines. 

"He does not have any military background, no skills, no nothing," Tryukhan said. "We had no choice but to leave."

She and her two children made the journey to safety. She kept up with the Vogel family since meeting them several years ago and she is now staying in Knoxville with Bill and Deana Vogel. 

Bill Vogel, a member of the Farragut Rotary Club, said when war struck out he immediately thought about the Tryukhan family. The Vogels and Rotary Club were able to help sponsor the Tryukhans' way to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine. 

"Julie was our exchange student and she was with us for about six months back then," Vogel said. "My dad came to this country 80 years ago under a similar program. He was a 19-year-old Jewish guy in rural Germany and that wasn't a good place to be. It was obvious it was the right thing to do."

For Tryukha and her family, the future is unclear but they're keeping faith their family will be reunited. 

While her husband continues to fight in Ukraine, Tryukhan and her two children will move into an apartment of their own in October. The Farragut Rotary Club is accepting donations for the family to start building a life here.

Anyone who wants to donate and support the family can click here and type "Julie from Ukraine" in the description box. 


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