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A Minnesota community is giving a Ukrainian refugee his hockey dream back. He's one of them now

'He's a very focused kid. He makes it easy to have him here,' said his 'Minnesota dad.'

A Minnesota community is giving a Ukrainian refugee his hockey dream back. He's one of them now
Cover Image Source: Facebook / Mike Woodley

A young Ukrainian hockey player is discovering the strength of Minnesota's hockey community. Max Chevevatenko had played hockey with Tyler Hess in summer camps when a Ukrainian team would visit the United States. When the turmoil in Ukraine began, Hess asked if he could come live with his family. It's been 9 months since then. Chevevatenko now lives with the Hess family and maintains contact with his loved ones back in Ukraine. The Minnetonka Hockey Association has been assisting him by raising funds for his hockey training and beyond. Over the duration of the teen's stay in the U.S., they've become his Minnetonka group of friends and support system, CBS News reports. 

Chad Hess, Chevevatenko's "Minnesota dad," is one of those friends. "He's got a good sense of humor but is really, really serious. Like he is very focused, and after a game, he gets over it and he's like a kid," Hess said.

Chevevatenko grew up in Ukraine with his parents and his one-and-a-half-year-old sister. Because of the eight-hour time difference between the two countries, Chevevatenko now has to carefully plan when he can FaceTime his parents. "It's hard because I haven't seen my family for so long," he said. "I miss them a lot." They currently play hockey on a backyard rink as Chevevatenko finds his bearings in his temporary home. His "Minnesota mom" is tuned in to his feelings and requirements. "It's hard to put yourself in that position," Lisa Hess said. "If it were one of my kids, it's hard to even imagine what they must be going through. It's tough."


They recently held a hockey fundraiser for Chevevatenko in Excelsior, where he was at the center of Minnesotan compassion. The event raised funds to help pay for his hockey training and other expenses. "It means a lot. It means people care about me, and stuff that's going on in Ukraine," Chevevatenko said. "I try to comfort him a lot, I try to talk to him about how his day's going. Little things," teammate Jackson Wells said. Sam Williams, another teammate said: "Max is super nice, he's always funny, he's telling us words in Ukraine. He's just fun to be around." People who have welcomed him into their lives have made his nine-month stay in the U.S. tolerable and even enjoyable at times. He's doing well as a teen in a new family.


For the time being, Chevevatenko will communicate with his Ukraine family by phone and hold on to the hope of returning to them someday. Meanwhile, he misses them terribly. "He's a very focused kid. He makes it easy to have him here. He does his own laundry, he sets his alarm to get up in the morning," said Chad. His hockey family in Minnesota is still raising funds for his hockey fees and is also looking to find a time to reunite him for a visit with his family.


However, as we're all aware, the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war has rampaged not only the settlements of countless people but also significantly altered the lives of many, including children. One such child is 6-year-old Ilya Kostushevich who was scared in the basement of a neighbor's house for three weeks after both his parents perished in the first week of the war.


Meanwhile, Vladimir and Maria Bespalov were afraid that the war would put a stop to their long-held desire of raising a family through adoption. The couple posted an appeal on social media. They wrote that they want to "adopt any boy or girl, any newborn or child."

In April, Bespalov and Bespalaya were informed about a little boy with no parents and asked if they wanted to take care of him. Ilya has now been with his new family for over six months. Although the couple wishes to adopt him, they are unable to do so at this time since all adoption procedures in the country have been halted owing to martial law. Meanwhile, they are doing everything they can to keep Ilaya safe from the horrors of war and to provide him with "memories of a normal childhood."

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