Patty Bryars of Ocean Springs Sponsors Ukrainian Refugee Family
Patty Bryars breathlessly watched the war on Ukraine unfold along with the rest of the world and just knew she had to help.
In August 2022, Bryars welcomed Ukraine refugees Iryna Gusiuk, her four-year-old daughter Kira, and her mother Polina into her Ocean Springs home and agreed to sponsor them until August 2024.
“It’s been wonderful,” Bryars said. “Everyone is learning how to adjust to America. They speak a little English and I do not speak their language, but it’s so beautiful. It sounds just like music to me and I’m learning with them.”
Gusiuk was an interior designer and painter in her small Ukrainian town, Comrat. She spent her first few months in the United States painting memories of her war-torn homeland as a way of dealing with the pain of leaving her beloved country. Her paintings include a neighbor killed while riding a bicycle and the trunk of her vehicle stuffed with precious keepsakes they quickly grabbed as they fled. Her artwork now depicts their life in Ocean Springs and painting beautiful land and seascapes has helped her regain hope for their future.
“Pictures just say what I feel and what I think,” Gusiuk said. She added she not only loves America, but the people hold a special place in her heart. “The people here help so much. Every single time I’m amazed. Every time I want to put even more gratitude into the words. I’m learning the language and falling in love with it. I so want to speak without barriers, I so want to talk about my feelings and hear their stories.”
And they’ve received an outpouring of support from the community, including the Blossman Family YMCA in Ocean Springs. The organization granted the family a full scholarship with their open doors program. The program allows Gusiuk and her mother to stay healthy while Kira is busy making friends at preschool and learning to swim. Kira even recently had an American-style birthday celebration and Polina is fascinated by the independence of U.S. women.
“Mom also gets new experiences in her life,” Gusiuk said.
Bryars feels helping this family was a calling from above and that’s why she reached out and asked them to come to America and live with her in her home.
“She prayed about it and called back and said they would come,” Bryars said. “I think she did it mainly for her daughter. She didn’t want her traumatized from the war.”
Gusiuk said when she accepted Bryars’ offer in May 2022 to get her family out of their war-ravaged town, she exhaled for the first time since the attacks began on Ukraine in February 2022. Although she does miss her homeland, and until they can safely return to Ukraine, she’ll gladly call Ocean Springs home.