Health Partnership Welcomes First Ukrainian Refugee
After traveling more than 5,644 miles, Alex, a 19-year-old Ukrainian refugee, is now calling Overland Park, Kan. home. His aunt and uncle, Yelena and Oleg Stadnik, and their 29-year-old son, Sasha, along with the Kansas City Ukrainian community, has welcomed him with open arms. And so has Health Partnership Clinic (HPC).
Alex is just the first of many displaced refugees HPC is expected to treat in the coming months. The clinic has partnered with two primary refugee resettlement agencies—International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas to provide refugees with general medical exams, including immunizations and evaluation of referral needs beyond the clinic walls. Alex was seen by Kare Lyche, MD, a Family Practice physician at the clinic, in July.
“After all the difficulties the refugees have endured, we are grateful at Health Partnership to be able to contribute in a small way to help with their transition in the States,” Dr. Lyche says. “It’s a real privilege to make sure their health care, which has likely been less of a priority with all the dangers they were facing, is finally being addressed.”
CEO Amy Falk, says, “As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), our mission is to work with partner agencies and ensure the needs of our community are met—and that includes refugees, immigrants and others. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the entry of refugee arrivals into ongoing health care and establish a primary care medical home.”
When war broke out in February 2022, Alex was attending a university in Kiev, Ukraine and decided to return home to his family in Odesa. After monitoring the dire situation, the family left their home and crossed into neighboring Romania to seek safety. From there, they migrated to Israel.
“I have parents, a brother and a sister,” Alex explains. “Our final destination to Israel was challenging for my family, living in a single room apartment and adjusting to the high-cost of living.” After much deliberation, it was decided that Alex should migrate to the United States, where he has a cousin in New York and several relatives in Kansas. On June 4, Alex boarded a flight bound for New York City with only a backpack of clothes, personal belongings and a cellphone. After a short visit, he arrived in Kansas City on June 8.
“My immediate goal is to continue my education in computer science,” he says. “Being independent and helping my home country of Ukraine and our people are very important to me.” Now with a work permit and social security card, his goal is to enroll at Johnson County Community College for the next semester.
While acclimating to American lifestyle and culture, getting a driver’s license, searching for an affordable car and finding a job tops his to-do list. Like most 19-year-olds, he enjoys biking, swimming, jogging and listening to music. But he and his U.S. family spend much of their free time on the phones with state and government agencies attempting to navigate uncharted waters related to the refugee program, assistance programs and medical coverage options.
Asked about how he feels to be on U.S. soil, he reflects. “There are no sirens, I feel safe here, and I can begin to have a normal life again. It was horrible living under the threat of missiles and the constant sirens. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me.” Thanks to social media and his cell phone, he is in regular contact with his parents, siblings and friends, who are scattered across many countries, including some who have remained in Ukraine.
“We are here to give Alex all the support he needs to be successful,” Yelena says. “The outpouring of support from Congregation Beth Shalom, Jewish Vocational Service, Catholic Charities, friends, neighbors and even strangers, who have supported Stand with Ukraine KC, a humanitarian nonprofit organization, has been overwhelming and humbling.”
Oleg adds, “The KC community has really stepped up to help Alex and many other refugees. This whole process has opened our eyes to all the services available in the area. I wasn’t even aware of Health Partnership Clinic—and I’ve lived in Johnson County for 25 years, but it has been a great resource for us.”