Julie Tryukhan: From war in Ukraine to love here

Tom KingFarragut

Her home in Kiev, Ukraine, is some 5,200 miles away. The war with Russia, now in its eighth month, rages there. In the next few days Julie Tryukhan and her two young children are moving into their new apartment in Knoxville. But back in Ukraine her husband, Dimi, is still fighting for their country.

Her emotions run the gamut. Relief and joy to be here, constant worry about her husband, thankful for leaving their country through Slovakia to give their kids a chance at a life. This is the second time she has lived in Knoxville and since returning she has been living with Dinah and Bill Vogel for a second time.

Julie came to Knoxville in 2007 as a Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) student, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Farragut. She was here for a year and attended Webb School of Knoxville. Her host parents for most of the year were the Vogels. On August 5, two months ago, the Vogels and a few Farragut Rotarians met them at McGhee Tyson Airport as refugees who came here as part of the United for Ukraine program.

Julie Tryukhan’s son, Mark, enjoys the ice cream while his mother speaks.

Last week Julie, now 31, and her children, Mark, 4, and Polly, 19 months, were at the Farragut Rotary meeting at Fox Den Country Club, her first visit since returning.

She was our speaker and it was a program full of special moments. Julie shared her emotional thoughts about life then and life now.

Rotarian Bill Nichols, the leader of “Team Julie” for the club, introduced her and spoke about her story. And then it was her turn.

“I had no idea last March where my family would be right now, and I had no idea so many of you would care for us. It is absolutely unbelievable and overwhelming,” she said.

“Dimi and I have dreamed about coming to the U.S. to live. I have kind hearts all around me. It’s been much better with your help to deal with what’s going on in Ukraine. Rotary has been incredible for us. I pray for that day when I can pick up Dimi at the airport. … and please pray with me for the people of Ukraine who will never give up to Russia.”

Rotarians have helped financially, paying for their airfare to Knoxville, working together with members of the Volunteer Rotary Club to get her a car.

She now has a Tennessee driver’s license and Rotarian Tom Marsh helped with that process. Farragut member Val Privett and her Beacon Insurance firm took care of her insurance needs.

Farragut member Vicki Williams has two buddies named Aaron and Amy Crecy, who own Junk Galaxy Movers. They are moving her in to her apartment – for love – and not for dollars. The move is “on their dollar.” A non-Rotarian angel named Lynn Christian donated all of the furniture and kitchenware she needs.

Julie also worries about her brother, now living in Moscow. “He is a scuba diver and we’re scared the Russians may try to draft him, but he will not fight for them,” she said. “We hope he can find a way out of Russia.”

She is looking forward to moving into the apartment.

“When we move, life will kind of get back to normal for us. But there will be some lonely nights there too. But my challenges here are nothing compared to what Dimi and the Ukrainian people face every day now. I remember the days and nights we lived in basements in Kiev, hearing the bombing and the gunfire and worried about a nuclear attack. We knew we had to get out to give our children a chance at a life.”

Julie endured escaping from Ukraine into neighboring Slovakia, living there and being supported by Slovakian Rotarians. And then getting to the United States. “I’ll do what I need to do for our kids,” Julie said. And that’s what she is doing.

She is planning to get a Social Security card and do other paperwork she needs in order to work here. She continues to work remotely for her company in Kiev in human resources management.

“With the kids I’ll need a part-time job I think, and I hope I can find one.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia and is a past president of the Rotary Club of Farragut. 


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