OREM, Utah — A Ukrainian who has lived in Utah for more than 15 years packs his bags to help his people.
Vasil Osipenko was instrumental in helping Ukrainians find accommodation here in Beehive state after fleeing their homeland, but now he says it’s time to reach out to them.
“I would like to help these people and these families, the separated families, to find a new meaning in life,” he said.
Offering help and hope is what Osipenko does every day for his students at Orem.
Osipenko started the “Ukrainian Tennis Academy” to mentor students in the sport he grew up in.
“All my skills, my teaching skills, my playing skills and my dignity I brought from Ukraine,” he said.
Ukraine is Osipenko’s homeland. Later, he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia.
His wife, Liz, served her mission in Ukraine around the same time, but it wasn’t until later that they met and married.
The Osipenkos’ wedding, like the colors depicted on the Ukrainian flag, was blue skies and the harvest of a lot of hard work.
“I love Liz,” Vasil said. “I just try to be behind the scenes and not spoil the peaceful environment.”
The pair plan to take their work ethic across the seas to Poland to help refugees fleeing Ukraine – people Vasil has spent the past month talking to on the phone.
“I just come to tell them how great they are, how much we appreciate our relationship with them and how much they are my heroes,” he said.
The situation in Ukraine is still too dangerous for the Osipenkos to cross the border from Poland. This trip is therefore about taking the refugees where they need to go.
Vasil said he looked forward to interacting with the refugees and comforting them in their own language.
“My wife speaks Russian and Ukrainian, and she’s a very caring person,” he said. “Bringing her in and allowing people to meet her will provide a few hours or days of comfort.”
The couple have been busy helping Ukrainians arriving in Utah find housing, clothing, food and more.
“It was so amazing,” Liz said. “People have offered two bedrooms in their house and a basement.”
Both have said they want to return once the conflict is over to help rebuild Ukraine.
“I heard the statement that we don’t fight because we don’t love our enemy – we fight because we love our people behind us, our families and our children,” Vasil said.
The Osipenkos are traveling to Poland on Monday and plan to return in a week and a half.
They go through the donations collected by To Ukraine with lovecreated by Vasil’s niece Svitlana Miller.