Kzoo Co. host family fights to keep Ukrainian exchange student safe

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Posted at 9:39 AM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 09:39:41-05

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — The Russian and Ukrainian war is continuing to separate families. 

More than two million refugees have left Ukraine already. One exchange student here in Michigan is trying to keep his family together thousands of miles away.

"I'm a little bit worried because that's war," 15-year-old Dmytro Tymchuk said.

This is his last semester as an exchange student at Gull Lake High School.

"I'm supposed to leave in June 21," he told FOX 17.

So, he's in constant communication with his family, a family now separated over three countries. His father and grandparents are in their hometown in Ternopil.

"My dad stayed at home. He's helping our military. They send a lot of stuff from school to our military bases. They're like volunteers," he said.

His mother and sister are seeking refuge in Poland.

"They have friends. So they stayed house with friends, and they're safe for now," Tymchuk said.

READ MORE: How to help the people of Ukraine

Despite being thousands of miles apart on two separate continents, the family stays connected almost every day. Dmytro called his father to check in and see how he was doing Tuesday.

"He said that he is feeling good right now because I am here. Even if I am 5,000 miles from Ukraine, he's feeling safe for me. He is really thankful for my host family and everyone praying for Ukraine."

Now, Dmytro's host family is working to make sure Dmytro stays safe past his exchange student program and maybe bring some of the family back together.

"Some U.S. congressmen and some of our legislators have actually helped us to get through the customs. So, now Dymtro has an extension so he can stay up to 18 months later, and we are also working to get mom and sister over here," host family member Michael Westra said.

"I hope I can stay here because I really love my host family," Dmytro said.

The Ukrainian government has enlisted all men 18–60 to fight in the war. Dymtro's father isn't on the front lines. He is, however, building camouflage for military equipment.

RELATED: 11-year-old boy travels more than 600 miles alone from Ukraine to Slovakia

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