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Metro Atlanta family helps Ukrainian refugee start new life in Georgia

MARIETTA, Ga. — It has been a hundred days since the first Russian troops invaded Ukraine, setting off a battle that has left million of Ukrainians without a home.

Yet the war has also brought many people together. In fact, families in Georgia and the United States have taken in many refugees.

But some of the refugees have lost everything and many are having trouble building a life here in the U.S.

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Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon spoke to a Ukrainian refugee currently living in Marietta to discuss the problems he’s facing.

Despite everything he has gone through, the 23-year-old Ukrainian told Wilfon that he’s grateful.

Aleksey Sorokolet said he used to call the bombed-out city of Mariupol home but for now, he calls Marietta home.

The two cities couldn’t be more different, but so far he says he’s enjoying it while also facing some obstacles.

“All of my life… my dream…was to come to America,” Sorokolet said.

He doesn’t speak much English but he doesn’t need to. It’s still clear that Sorokolet is happy, and that he has found a peaceful place.

“I like Marietta. It’s a small, beautiful city. All the trees are nice,” Sorokolet said.

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Thousands of miles away from his new home in Cobb County, his old home painted a different picture. It is now a bombed-out apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine.

Instead of having Sorokolet face the prospect of heading home, Janelle Schultz and her husband Rich invited Sorokolet to their home in Marietta.

“He left Ukraine on the 20th of February to go to a wedding in Poland, and by the time he was ready to go back home, the Russians had already bombed Mariupol, which is where he was living,” Janelle Schultz explained.

Schultz told Wilfon that there’s a language barrier but they’re working through that.

The Schultz’s found Sorokolet through a new U.S. program called Uniting for Ukraine, which allows Ukrainians to live in the U.S. for up to two years, as long as an American is willing to host or sponsor them.

Schultz told Wilfon that after arriving three weeks ago, Sorokolet is facing some challenges. It’s possible he can wait up to nine months for his U.S-issued work permit.

“It means we’re doing things like volunteering at a horse camp to keep him busy, to increase his language skills to make sure that he’s not bored. Because he really wants to be engaged and useful,” Schultz said.

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Sorokolet also doesn’t have insurance but requires dental work after sustaining an injury while training dogs for the Ukrainian military.

“Sharpnel came and hit him in the mouth so he has a tooth that probably needs to be replaced,” Schultz said.

Sorokolet eventually hopes to train dogs in the U.S.

But for now, he told Wilfon that he’s adjusting well to American life and enjoying American food.

“He’s a big fan of hamburgers and Pop-Tarts”, Schultz said.

There are still many Ukrainians looking for homes tonight.

The U.S. expects to admit up to 100,000 Ukrainians into the U.S. through the Uniting for Ukraine program.

If you would like to host one of them, you can apply here.

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