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An American family in Poland has taken in more than 20 Ukrainian refugees

The Bensons originally moved to Poland in search of adventure, but their plans quickly changed when they opened up their home to nine families fleeing the war in Ukraine.

An American family in Poland has taken in more than 20 Ukrainian refugees
Image Source: reddeerdir / Twitter

In February this year, OT and Julie Benson—along with five of their eight kids—moved from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, to Krakow, Poland. They were hoping to find adventure, but just over a month later, their lives completely changed when Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine. Instead of moving back home, the Bensons decided to stay and help out as much as they could. In the last month, the family's home has housed at least nine Ukrainian refugee families. At one point in time, they packed 21 people into their house, ABC News reports.



 

OT Benson shared in an interview with the news outlet, "When you are staring [at] refugees who have been traveling for many days, and they have nothing but the clothes on their backs, you do not really make a plan, you just say, 'Yes, and I will figure it out.'" He was inspired to open his home up to Ukrainian refugees when attending a sermon at church. During the first few days of the war, the bishop at his church called for folks to house Ukrainian refugees in their own homes. So that is exactly what the Bensons did.

"Our job is trying to make them feel safe," Julie Benson said. "Make them feel like they are with us, that they are like at their home. So that is what we’re trying to do. And every day see them happy, smiling—I think that is the best reward." At first, the couple’s daughter Leo said she was nervous about living in such a packed house. However, she soon agreed that welcoming those in need to their home was a humbling experience for her. She stated, "We had our first group of people stay with us, and they were so amazing and so kind and genuine. It was really humbling to see them. I do not even know how I can express it [in] better words. I just love them so much."



 

Oksana Tymchenko is one of the refugees staying with the Bensons. She fled Ukraine with her three daughters, while her husband stayed to fight in the war. "This family is great," she affirmed. "I had never expected they would receive us like that, like their own children. We do not even have a language barrier: they understand us, we understand them." Although her daughters miss their father, Tymchenko said the Bensons have helped the family keep their spirits up.

Providing a home for Ukrainian refugees has shown the Bensons how the war has affected innocent families like the Tymchenkos. "We had boys that would be here like in the backyard playing and they would see a plane fly over and react in very scary ways screaming," OT Benson said. "The other kids would say, ‘Rocket, rocket.' It looks like something they saw a few weeks ago." Through the experience, the Bensons and the families who stay with them are still learning to adapt. They are learning from their children, the Bensons shared. OT Benson concluded, "I would say certainly when living in the United States, you feel disconnected with this kind of thing. Think they come quickly to the realization that this is a different place, a different time, and it makes you grow up a lot faster. For me as a dad I am glad that they can do that, that they can see that and I want them to understand what it means to serve others and help others."



 

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