‘We decided to bring them over and let them stay here’ :: WRAL.com

— A Cary neighborhood has welcomed a Ukrainian mother and her children when they were forced to leave their home country due to the ongoing war with Russia.

Uliana Hrihorian is a single mother whose oldest daughter Narine has been a high school exchange student since August 2021 in North Carolina. Narine, 17, has been living with Justin and Sara Fawson and their two teenage daughters.

“It was really difficult not knowing what would happen,” Uliana Hrihorian said.

The Hrihorian family lived in a small town in western Ukraine near the border with Hungary. As the war with Russia became more intense, the Fawsons invited Narine to stay for another year and offered to sponsor her entire family to come to the U.S.

“I’m just really, really grateful to them that they did this for me and my family,” Narine said of the Fawson family.

The Hrihorian family includes:

  • Uliana Hrihorian, the mother
  • Narine, 17
  • Liana, 16
  • Haiane, 15
  • Armen, 14
  • Sevan, 12
  • Veniamin, 9

Narine recalled the day the war broke out on Feb. 24.

“I was just so scared. Like, the first day was the most intense,” she said. “The first two weeks I couldn’t focus at school.

“My thoughts were in Ukraine all the time.”

Narine said she felt guilty in the U.S. while her siblings didn’t go to school, sometimes having to hide in bomb shelters.

Earlier this month, the Hrihorians arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport through the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian parole program. The Fawsons have agreed to sponsor the Hrihorian family for two years.

Narine explained what it was like to see her family for the first time in more than a year.

“I was really happy,” she said. “I was like dancing around. Then, I saw my brother running to me, and I started crying.”

Justin Fawson recalled watching the Hrihorians reunite.

“Just seeing them come out of the airport was pretty incredible,” Justin Fawson said.

With the Hrihorians’ arrival, the number of people in the Fawson’s household grew to 12.

“Our house might not be the perfect solution for them, and our lives aren’t perfect, but they’re welcome here and whatever they can do to achieve happiness here, we’d love to support them in that,” Sara Fawson said.

Justin Fawson explained his family’s decision to host the Hrihorians.

“Up until about May, they felt safe and ok in Ukraine, but then in May, she started to feel like things just weren’t safe and the kids weren’t getting the education they needed,” Justin Fawson said. “We did what I think a lot of people would do and we hosted them.

“We decided to bring them over and let them stay here.”

A church has donated school supplies and someone donated a sewing machine for Uliana, who is a seamstress.

Volunteers are helping to finish the attic in Fawson’s home to turn to build two more bedrooms and a bathroom for the Hrihorians.

“Just the outpouring of love and concern and just everybody reaching out and asking how they can help has been pretty amazing,” Justin Fawson said. “[It’s] inspiring.”

The Fawson’s have also set up a GoFundMe page to help the Hrihorian family with expenses.

“We’re going through a lot of food,” Sara Fawson said. “Yeah, grocery bills are pretty steep.”

Others in the community have showed up to the Fawson household with food and games for the kids to play.

“There’s a lot of Ukrainian conversation at dinner time,” Sara Fawson said. “And, we’re using Google Translate a lot. [It’s] our most-used app for sure.”

The latest count from the United Nations shows more than 6.6 million people have left Ukraine since the war began with about 150,000 of them coming to the U.S.

“We’ve been given a lot in life and found success in life,” Justin Fawson said. “It’s up to us to help others.”

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