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Ukrainians living in El Paso find a home away from home in each other

EL PASO, Texas– Since the war in Ukraine began six months ago, some people who left the country have not returned.

One of those people is Kateryna Ilechko, a 17-year-old exchange student living El Paso for over a year.

Ilechko’s stay was extended after the war sent her sisters and mother to live in Poland while her father stayed behind.

“I know that's like my people from my culture dying a lot and it makes me very very sad because I don't want that, it makes me feel like I want to cry all the time," she said.

Taken in by host parent Elizabeth Lopez, Ilechko is now attending Hanks High School and enjoying her time in El Paso, however, missing a sense of home.

After Lopez heard of the story on ABC-7 of Ukrainian soccer player Artem Kholod, playing for El Paso Locomotives FC, she reached out to the team to arrange a meeting.

After months of not being able to speak to somebody in her own language, Kateryna finally met Artem.

“I think it's very good when in the city you have someone that understands you 200 percent, who understands your situation and can help with another problem,” said Kholod.

A home away from home, they said it feels great to be able to make a forever friend.

“It felt like I didn’t feel this feeling for so long, it felt like home… to have someone like a friend,” said Kateryna.

Kateryna said they plan to continue their friendship and support Artem at the next Locomotive game.

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Brianna Perez


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