Iryna Petrus woke up to the sounds of war on Feb. 24 in her home in Lviv, Ukraine.

“I will never forget when I woke up under the bomb attack and the first thing that I said was, 'Where are those noises coming from?'” Petrus said. “My husband was already up and dressed and told me Russia is here and it’s war.” 

Petrus looked at her five-year-old daughter, Polina (Poly) Domanska, and wondered what to do. Petrus said she needed to think about it and spent all day watching the news. 

“Some people were running away from Lviv and I offered them my home to stay with us,” Petrus said. She was also  taking in cats, dogs and rabbits. 

Petrus was desperately trying to get in touch with relatives all over Ukraine and she said it was very stressful trying to figure out what to do. 

She didn’t want to leave her husband Andriy Domanskyy or mother Olha Petrus.  

Her friends in Ukraine would send messages about houses being bombed. That’s when she made the decision to leave Ukraine. “My husband wanted me and our daughter to leave to keep us safe,” Petrus said. 

Petrus was worried about her mother’s health and mental condition. 

“I called my mom and she said, “I have two daughters and if one is in a safe place, I have less worries to go through,’” said Petrus. “Then my husband said, ‘If I am called to defend and go to war it’s much easier for me to overcome worries and not to stress about you being with a child under the ground.’ It was a very difficult decision to leave my home and family behind but you do what you have to do.”

When Petrus and her daughter left Lviv, near the Poland border, they took only that which they could carry, leaving their home, husband, and father behind, not knowing if they will ever be able to return.

A family in Poland housed Petrus and her daughter for a couple days but knew she had to do something else.

“I started thinking about what resources I have and where we can go,” Petrus said. “A lot of people started offering help and I got help from Alice and David Glass in Texas, a previous employer who had a house in the US and Mexico.”

Twelve-years ago, Petrus lived in the US for three years and made some connections. She holds a tourist Visa and decided to cross the border from Mexico to the US.

 “What I heard from all of my connections in the United States is that the US is hiring a lot,” Petrus said. “But as soon as I got here at the border, I was told that with a B1 Visa, I am not allowed to work. It’s a big problem because I would like to work and if there is an open position I would like to apply but there is no chance for me right now to do it legally.”

 Petrus has two master's degrees in engineering and human resources but cannot work at any job until she receives her Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation. Unfortunately, it can take the DHS and Immigration Services up to eight months to approve. Until Petrus receives this designation, she and her daughter could be deported back to Ukraine.

“It is very difficult to change the status for me now to work,” said Petrus. “It’s kind of like I’m here, but still not able to contribute. I’m willing to work so I can support more of my family who is there in Ukraine.”

Petrus and her daughter are now looking to live in the Twin Cities and arrived in North Oaks on May 24. They are currently living with North Oaks residents Tom and Mary Dybsky until they can afford a place of their own. 

From 2015 to 2020, Tom taught a course at the Ukrainian Catholic University graduate program where he met Petrus.

“During that time I came to know and see first hand the character of the Ukrainian people,” Tom said. “These are hard-working, warm, caring people who love their country and their freedom.” 

Petrus said she is grateful to Tom and Mary for their hospitality and hopes the war ends soon. She finds it very difficult not knowing what tomorrow will bring but she wants to go back home. 

“Ukraine is fighting not only with Putin, Ukraine is fighting for a better future for all of us and I guess we have to stop it,” she said. “None of us should go through war experiences — never.” 

“Today Poly is afraid to sleep alone as she still hears the explosion of bombs,” Tom said. “For them to settle here, they essentially have little to nothing.”

Tom and his son Steve have set up a GoFundMe page for Petrus because she needs help as she plans for the future. Including housing, health insurance, schooling, day care, transportation  and clothing — the general basics of every day living. 

The time that the North Oaks News went to print, $10,008 was raised with a goal of $15,000. If you would like to donate, go to:

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