Olha T. lived in a beautiful village in the Ukraine. She never considered the possibility that she could one day become a refugee. But in 2014, separatists started a war in Ukraine; the war that has been raging for the last five years.  In the violence, Olha lost friends, relatives, and neighbors. She became very scared for the life of her sons and husband, and made a difficult decision to flee the country with the family.

Olha was lucky enough to receive refugee status and arrived in Philadelphia in October 2018.  She and her husband Ruslan were referred to the refugee assistance program at JEVS Center for New Americans.

Only 36-years-old, Olha spoke poor English and was really worried about her family’s future in a new country. But, she had a goal to become self-sufficient. She was extremely determined and showed amazing drive. Olha worked closely with her JEVS employment counselor Yana Kanevsky, who did an extensive job search to match Olha’s skills and interests, and assisted her on work ethics, interviewing skills, and preparing a resume. Olha had excellent attendance in the program, always encouraging her classmates to follow her example.

Olha is a person of many talents. Before the war in Ukraine, she was a soloist in a chorus, lead actress at a local studio performing in a famous drama, and also worked as a teacher of Ukrainian literature and language. Once in Philadelphia, she wanted to support her family while also helping people, so she concentrated her job search in the social services field.

She credits her employment counselor at JEVS with helping her to find her first job in America as a home health aid, a position she was offered on the spot during her interview. Olha keeps in touch with Yana for additional support as she navigates her new life here.

As a graduate of Ternopol National University with a bachelor’s degree in Ukrainian literature and language, Olha has her sights set on improving her English and attending a community college to become a social worker. Olha has a big heart and a willingness to assist people as she was helped. She also hopes to read her favorite ‘White Fang’ by Jack London in its original language: English.

For her hard work toward her dreams, untiring spirit, and proactively searching for employment, Olha was recently awarded the “Rising Star” Award through the state’s refugee assistance program.

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