This interview was conducted with the help of interpreter Yevheniia Bazaliy
The Mazurs, a Ukrainian family now living in South Carolina with the help of the LSC New Americans Program, say they can see God in their sponsors, Chuck and Wynelle Middlebrooks.
“It’s a miracle. When people ask me how you came here, it’s like a fairy tale,” Olga Mazur said. “God brought me and my family by His hand and pulled me from Ukraine to here. He prepared everything, from small things to biggest.”
The family is adjusting to their new life in Columbia, South Carolina after arriving 9 months ago. The Middlebrooks, along with a Circle of Welcome from Chapin Baptist Church, have been there to support the Mazurs every step of the way.
“They are part of our family. They care about us, support us, and they’re our blessings,” Olga Mazur said. “They are really people from God. We see God’s love in them.”
Finding their way to South Carolina
Alex and Olga Mazur along with their three children, Ilia, Kate, and Vicki, knew they had to evacuate when Russian forces bombed a military airport near their hometown, Khmelnytskyi. The family became nervous that the nuclear power plant near their home could become a target.
“We also saw our friends, their house was destroyed,” Olga Mazur said. “All of our relatives from around the world started to call us and tell us we needed to go somewhere.”
They decided to go to Moldova to live with Alex Mazur’s mother. At the time, they thought they would be there for a few weeks and then be able to move back home.
But the war dragged on, and Olga Mazur moved with her children to Switzerland, while Alex Mazur stayed behind and continued working as a computer engineer for the local school system. At this point, Ukraine was under martial law, and able-bodied men weren’t allowed to leave.
Eventually, Alex Mazur was able to leave Ukraine and join his family in Switzerland because he is the primary caregiver for his son, Ilia, who has spina bifida that limits his mobility.
“Simultaneously, my friend who had the house destroyed, they moved to the U.S., and they told me and told me they knew a family who wanted to be sponsors for a Ukrainian family,” Olga Mazur said. “We know that God prepared a space for us here (South Carolina).”
“We’ve got to do something”
For the other side of the story, Chuck and Wynelle Middlebrooks felt called to do something after seeing the news about Russian’s attack on Ukraine.
“We were watching tv one night, and on the news it showed a lady in the middle of the street. Her house had been destroyed and she looked exactly like our friends in Moldova,” Wynelle Middlebrooks said. “I turned to him and said, ‘We have to do something.’”
The couple had a little experience working with a family from Afghanistan through their church, but this time they wanted to take a more hands-on role. They reached out to a Ukrainian pastor they knew in Spartanburg, South Carolina to see if he knew a family they could help support. Turns out that he did know the Mazurs, and the rest is history.
Making South Carolina home
With the help of the Middlebrooks, the family was quickly approved to come to America. A member of the Chapin Baptist Circle of Welcome found them a home, and everyone began learning the ins-and-outs of becoming acclimated to a new home and culture.
“We couldn’t do this without the church people who are around us. One night we were having dinner with another couple who agreed to help. She sat down at the table and said, ‘I have a confession to make.’ She speaks Russian. She has been tremendous help,” Chuck Middlebrooks said. “And other families have joined with us, so we have about 10 people that are our Circle of Welcome.”
The family has also received support from St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal, First Presbyterian of Columbia, and We Care Food Distribution Center in Chapin.
Alex Mazur got a job at a local warehouse, and Ilia said he just passed his permit test, so he is on his way to getting his driver’s license and hopes to get a part-time job soon and go back to school. Kate and Vicki are still in school where they are working on perfecting their English. Kate attends Chapin High School.
Everything is different in America, from the medical system to the metric system, but Olga Mazur said she’s received great support from the LSC team in the transition.
“We just want to give a big thank you to all of our team,” Olga Mazur said. “We feel big support from LSC.”
To learn more about the Mazurs, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXsjkONxVOw