Milton family welcomes Ukrainian family into their home

A Ukrainian family now calls Milton their home after a long journey escaping their war-torn home country.
Published: Jul. 31, 2022 at 6:58 PM CDT
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MILTON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Ukrainian family now calls Milton their home after a long journey escaping their war-torn home country.

Gretchen Kingsley and her husband adopted two daughters from Ukraine in 2016. Their girls kept in touch with people in their birth country who needed to flee after the Russian invasion began.

When the Uniting for Ukraine program became an option, the Kingsley’s immediately applied for approval to sponsor and host their daughters’ 38-week pregnant, at the time, friend Liliia Nialka and her husband Misha Nialka.

Gretchen had five kids already, but that didn’t deter her from welcoming the Nialkas.

”We have the motto of build a longer table not a higher fence,” Kingsley said. ”It’s something beautiful. It’s like witnessing a miracle right in front of you and being a part of it. It’s something that I don’t really have words for.”

The extreme stress during pregnancy caused by the war resulted in an adrenal gland disorder for the Nialka’s baby, Mark. He was hospitalized for 75 days after birth. The critical illness is one of the few rules that made Misha exempt form Ukraine’s marshal law order forbidding men to leave during war.

The exemption provided a brief sense of relief for the Nialkas, but the weight of the war is still heavy.

”You cannot fully believe that this is over. It ended just for you. It is not over for other people,” twenty-year-old Liliia said. ”It is very difficult because our relatives, mothers and fathers stayed there. Our brothers and sisters also stayed there and we have different time zones. We can’t sleep well at night. Maybe during the day or vice-versa the bomb can fly into their houses.”

Liliia remembered wearing coats and shoes to bed while sleeping in bomb shelters in case they had to flee.

”This is when our women are raped,” she said. “When simply innocent grandparents are killed. When Russian troops enter the house they can cut off your arms or cut of your legs simply because you are Ukrainian.”

Despite the trauma, the family is assimilating to life in Milton well. Misha is looking for carpentry work, Liliia plans to take English classes and baby Mark sees the doctor daily but still smiles in their peaceful new home.

”There are no sirens, no bombs, no sleeping in your shoes, sleeping in a basement of cobblestone, covering up with blankets, and there’s no worries or fears of safety,” Kingsley said.

She said the Milton, Janesville and Beloit communities helped deliver meals to make the Nialkas feel welcome.

Next, she said they’re looking to find Misha a car so he can pursue his construction and tiling work. Misha has an international drivers license.

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