Community, Creswell

Finding friendly refuge: Ukrainian family relocates to Creswell

Julia Buinov outside her new home in Creswell.

CRESWELL — One year into the Ukraine war, there still isn’t an end in sight. But people all over the world have been doing extraordinary things — big and small — to aid, comfort, and protect refugees. War brings out the worst in people, but it also provides an incredible opportunity to showcase the best of humanity. 

For the Buianov family, going home is no longer an option. Their hometown of Kiev was flattened by heavy shelling and fighting following the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. 

It’s estimated that more than 8 million people, like the Buianovs, have sought shelter in other countries across Europe and the U.S.

Today, they’ve relocated to Creswell – where a new life is taking root, nurtured by resilience and positivity. Despite the language barriers and the trauma of fleeing home, the family is focused on the future, on looking ahead and making the most of what they have. 

“My parents wanted to change their life for the better,” said Ivan Jr., who translated for his family during the interview. “They wanted their children to live in a safe place and get more opportunities for them.” 

After the start of the war, Ivan Sr. crossed the border to Germany, working in construction to save enough money to help his family across months later. Much of his family is still in Ukraine, living in Crimea, which was formally incorporated by the Russian government in 2014. 

“It’s safe now,” he said. “But I don’t know for how much longer.” 

Missile and rocket attacks have caused widespread death, destruction of homes and businesses and severely damaged energy infrastructures across Ukraine — as the war continues, humanitarian needs are multiplying and spreading. An estimated 17.6 million people in Ukraine will need humanitarian assistance in 2023. 

“We miss our home,” Ivan Jr. said. “It’s hard to be away from our family, our home. From the place I was born.” 

He’s able to communicate with his grandparents in Crimea sporadically through encrypted messaging apps – something he’s thankful for, even though it comes with challenges. 

In August, the family enrolled in the Biden Administration’s Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program — a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate families to come to the United States and stay for two years of “parole.” This parole status comes with a few stipulations; participants must have a supporter stateside who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay. Under this program, migrating Ukrainians aren’t defined as refugees and cannot access resettlement services. Those services would have included SNAP benefits, housing placement, job connections, visa support and many others. 

Laurel Henry, a Creswell resident who volunteered with U4U to sponsor the Buianovs, says their courage inspires her every day. She lost her husband, Gary Mounce, two years ago to health challenges. He was a long-time school administrator and former Creswell High School Principal. 

“After I lost my husband, I was marinating in grief,” she said. “It’s a giant leap of faith to move to another country without a safety net and create a new life. I’m happy to serve as their babushka.” 

Henry and the Buianovs in Creswell.

Their youngest, six-year old Matthew, has a wide smile and a shy giggle. Walking into a new school is nerve-racking in the best circumstances, so to help alleviate anxiety, a new friend, Mosha, who is also a recent immigrant from Ukraine, has been walking him to school to help to ease the jitters and tutor him in English. 

He was initially scared by the planes flying overhead at the nearby Creswell Hobby Field Airport – but now calls them “baby planes.” 

“He’s so positive and energetic,” Henry interjected. “It’s been wonderful to see him enjoy life here.” 

Ivan Jr. is a sophomore at Creswell High School, and says the transition into “a new normal” has come with anxiety — his friends, community and family are still overseas. 

“He likes the school lunch,” his mother, Julia, teased. “The pizza and chicken tenders.” 

School in America is easy, but learning in English has been a barrier he’s learning to overcome. “I know so much of what is being taught,” he said. “But sometimes, I don’t understand that.” 

The community of Creswell has rallied around the Buianovs, donating toys, clothes and computers to support Julia’s English lessons. They’ve even taken trips to Portland and the Oregon Coast. 

“I always swim in the ocean,” Ivan Sr. said with a smile, despite the giggles from his family. “It’s still the ocean, the same ocean.” 

Due to their parole status, the family has been in the process of applying for a more permanent visa. 

“My father wants people to know that Ukraine isn’t a safe place now,” Ivan Jr. translated. “A lot of people in Ukraine want to go to the U.S. but there are not enough sponsors and maybe some people don’t know about this program. If they want to become a sponsor or to figure out how this program works, we will help them learn.” 

For those interested, more information is available online at 

The war in Ukraine has caused ripple effects across the world — disrupting global supply chains and increasing the price of food, fuel and other commodities. For the Buianovs, it meant learning to plant seeds in a new soil so they can grow stronger under the same sun.

To ensure accuracy in this story, The Chronicle had the full transcript of this interview translated from Russian by Chronicle support staff, Jordan DeGelia.