Olexandra Lukashov, 26, was pregnant with her second son when she fled Ukraine with her husband. The family relocated to the United States in June 2022 and have been supported by the International Rescue Committee as they resettle and integrate into their new community.

A year after the escalation of the conflict, we asked the Lukashov family to document life in their new home and the day-to-day experiences of integrating in a new city. Here is their story, told through their own eyes, with all photos taken by Olexandra on a film camera.

“We had wonderful days, wonderful years, together in Ukraine,” says Olexandra, who lived in the city of Mariupol with her husband Levgen and her son Oleksii. “Mariupol was a really nice and beautiful city.” 

When the full scale war began on 24 February 2022, everything changed for the family. “On the first day of the war, our friends called us and said that you should leave Mariupol immediately. We left Mariupol after a few days. 

Baby Michael lies on his front on the bed
"There is Michael on Oleksii's bed. It was when Oleksii was draw(ing). Oleksii wanted to be with me when he draws. And Michael and I came to his room, and we were on the bed when Oleksii drew.”

“We didn’t understand that we had left our house forever.” The family thought they would only be away from home for a week or two. “I took only comfortable clothes because I didn’t know where we would stay,” Olexandra explains.

“At the last minute when we went to the car, our dog looked into our eyes, and we cried a lot with my husband when we remember it now.”

Oleskii pushes his baby brother in the stroller
"In this picture, we go to school. Often Oleksii pushes the stroller; I think he feels like he's a big boy when he does it. He's sweet with his brother; he likes him very much. They were born on the same day. It's outside our apartment (the photo). Our school is so close—a ten minute walk."

The family were forced to leave their pets behind with neighbours and family. “Now we have a good life, we are relieved. But these memories, we will never forget.”

Together, they first travelled to Zaporizhzhia, a city 3 hours from Mariupol, where they stayed with friends for a few weeks before going to Poland and then Germany—searching for somewhere they could settle more permanently.

In April 2022, their home back in Ukraine was destroyed.  

Michael is sat in a high chair at kitchen table
"This is Michael. I took this photo. One month ago he sat for the first time in the child chair we bought for him, and he likes to sit and see all that we do. It was evening, I think we were preparing dinner and Michael was waiting for his milk. (The flowers were) from my husband and my son. They go to the store and every week buy me flowers. It's like a tradition from Ukraine. Sometimes they buy me two bouquets from Oleksii and my husband, because Oleksii wants to present his bouquet.”

Finally, in June, Olexandra and her family received news they’d been accepted on a resettlement program in Wichita, Kansas. “We found sponsors who invited our family, and we are thankful for this family and for the USA for this chance to start a new life because we haven’t a home to come back to in Ukraine.” 

Evgen sits in an armchair with his two young children on his lap.
"This is the picture I see every day in the evening. My husband works a lot of the time, and he comes back home at 7pm, and he should sleep at 9 or 10pm because he wakes up at 4am, and he has a little bit of time to spend this time with me and the children.”

“I never dreamed about the USA because I thought I could never be here. When we had this chance, I was really happy and excited about it. For a new start.”

“It’s a wonderful country, there are lots of jobs. I like the education and school, but it was hard to understand that I will not see my mum for a long time.” 

OOlexandra holds baby Michael in her arms and Oleskii stands by her side
“He [Oleksii] didn’t want to take a photo at this moment. And I said, in our cameras, we haven’t photos with me in. We should take photos with me! Every week we go to a different place for games, like a restaurant, zoo, and parks. Last week we took the children to a bouncy castle.”

The IRC has been helping Olexandra and her family for the last few months. “The IRC helps us to pay for our apartment and also with some spending money for six months. If we have any questions, we can call IRC and say we need help.” 

Evgen sits with Oleskii on his lap, in hospital waiting room
“We always go with all the family to appointments for Michael, because now I haven't got a car, and I can only make appointments when my husband is home. They often play fight, Olekseii pushes my husband’s nose, and they tickle each other”.

Looking ahead, Olexandra has dreams for both her children and herself.  “I started baking in the USA after my baby was born. I cook my specialist ‘bento cake’it’s small cakes for 2-3 people, they’re so cute and beautiful. I cook large cakes too.” 

Oleskii holds a sieve over his head whilst baking
"Me and my son baked a cake, I think it was for a Ukrainian party. When I said to him I will take a photo, he put the sieve on his head. It was a chocolate cake with cherries. He helps me when I cook for my family and our friends. When I bake cakes for sale, I cook by myself only."

“I hope that my children will go to university. I want to study baking, and I want to learn English more.”

Evgen and two sons sit at dining table, ready to eat
“We had lasagna on our table, salad, and meat. This was our first American Christmas. I like it, I always wanted to come to America and celebrate American Christmas”.

When asked what message she would share with her past self, Olexandra says: “I can’t say ‘enjoy the moment’ because I always enjoyed moments in my life. Maybe, I can say: don’t be afraid to start something new, to start a new life.”  

This content was produced in partnership with Pal.TV.