Paying it Back

By USCRI November 12, 2020

Below is the story of two refugees, Volodymyr and Philip, whose paths intertwined this year. Their touching story shows how our lives are enriched when we reach out and welcome our new neighbors.

Volodymyr and his wife Oleksandra arrived in the U.S. as refugees from Ukraine in December of 2019. “My wife and I are very thankful to USCRI for helping us come to the U.S. and move into our apartment,” says Volodymyr. Anxious to support themselves, they looked for work immediately. Volodymyr worked in construction in Ukraine and was looking for work when COVID stopped everything.

 “I don’t like doing nothing,” continues Volodymyr, “so I offered to help around the apartment building for free.” Landlord Philip Crane provided the materials, and Volodymyr busied himself with painting and other handyman jobs. Impressed with Volodymyr’s work and concerned for his well-being, Philip offered Volodymyr a job as a maintenance worker at his company, Atlantic States Kitchens and Baths.

“I am very glad I work for Philip,” says Volodymyr, “and everyone there is very kind and patient as I learn English better.”

Philip Crane, the landlord, was himself once a refugee, one of thousands of children rescued from Vietnam before the fall of Saigon in “Operation Babylift.” Now a successful businessman who retired from the New York State Police and the U.S. Air Force Reserve, he has never forgotten his roots. An Amerasian baby with no father, he recalls a boyhood of incredible poverty where he begged on the streets to bring money home to his mother and grandmother. Wanting a better life for him, they placed him in an orphanage for Amerasian children with the hope he would be taken to the United States. Philip was evacuated on April 6, 1975 and remembers looking out the window to see his grandmother waving as tears streamed down her face. He was adopted by a loving American family, but often thinks of how difficult his life would be if he were still in Vietnam.

“America is truly the land of opportunity,” Philip explains, “and many good people have helped me get where I am today. I like giving something back, and to put a smile on someone’s face every day. As for Volodymyr,” he adds, “I can’t even start to express how much I appreciate him and his work ethic. He also is very knowledgeable in everything! Everyone at my company absolutely loves him! So, you see, it is not him that is blessed. It is me that is blessed to have found him.

The bond between these friends is mutual. “Philip is a great man,” says Volodymyr. “I will forever appreciate the opportunity he has given me to work hard and support myself to build a better life here in the U.S.”

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