PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — So many families left Ukraine when the war broke out earlier this year and found refuge in South Florida. A few even enrolled their kids in our local schools as they restarted their lives.
WPTV journalist Stephanie Susskind on Thursday followed up with one of those families she met months ago to find out how they're doing heading into the holidays and new year.
"We started from zero," Marina Kozachok said.
Still adjusting to their new life in Palm Beach County, WPTV reconnected with Kozachok and her daughter, Anastasia, nine months after they left war-torn Kyiv for South Florida.
"I am feeling safe here," Kozachok said. "I live in a safe community. People are very nice to us. My daughter is going to a school that she likes."
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As Kozachok continues to learn English, a friend and translator helped express what life has been like for Kozachok and her family, ripped from their home.
"I am still stressing out about my family and friends left back in Ukraine," Kozachok said.
Since WPTV first met Kozachok back in March, her husband and the family dog have joined them in Palm Beach County.
Anastasia celebrated her 10th birthday, played soccer, and is an honor roll student at Marsh Pointe Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens.
"Sometimes it's hard to be in my class because some words I still don't understand," Anastasia said. "But I'm trying to make new friends and everybody is nice to me, so I'm feeling good there."
But this new life isn't always a walk in the park.
"It's very hard for us. Living here is very expensive," Kozachok said.
Kozachok doesn't have a job, and what's happening back home still lingers on her mind every day as she longs to return to the country she loves when it's safe.
"The social infrastructure is destroyed. There is no electricity. There is no water," Kozachok said. "Constantly a sense of fear that you need to go into a shelter."
So for now, they'll continue making the best of their moments here, getting ready for a South Florida Christmas.
"Christmas in our country, many snow, cold, winter," Kozachok said. "And in this area, it's very warm, many flowers, butterflies. It's very interesting for us listening to Christmas music and seeing green nature around us."
And keeping the faith for a brighter new year ahead.
"I'd like people to know that Ukraine is peaceful country. Ukraine did not go to war with anyone. Ukraine protected itself and its boarders from being attacked," Kozachok said. "I hope that war will end and I will find better way of living here effectively."