Ukrainian family reunites in Sioux Falls

"Oh, I couldn't stop my tears. Because, you know when I, when I hug my uncle, I imagined that I hug my father. They look alike," said Garkun.
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Just a few weeks ago, Regina Dumansky Brunz was raising funds for her family in Ukraine and asking for prayers.

“Air raid sirens are louder longer that they’ve ever heard. So pray for us please pray longer and order that you’ve ever prayed,” said Brunz in a March 3rd interview.

There is a joy for just a few days now as Regina’s cousin Tanya Garkun arrives in Sioux Falls. Being together is surreal.

“Oh, I couldn’t stop my tears. Because, you know when I hug my uncle, I imagine that I hug my father. They look alike,” says Garkun.

While Garkun left with her daughters to join her husband, who had found work in Germany, her parents, brother, and others in her church stayed behind and offered food, clothing, and shelter to refugees.

Garkun’s hometown is near the Ukraine/Poland border. The population swelled from 280,000 before the war to 430,00 with the influx of refugees.

The trip to Germany was initially to be Garkun and her two daughters. More friends pleaded to come along, and the group grew to 15. Traveling for five days through mountainous terrain across several countries was traumatic.

“So when my husband first met me and the girls, he couldn’t recognize me,” says Garkun.

As a teacher, she worries about how this affects the younger ones.

“It’s difficult for our Ukrainian children who had to flee, who had to be refugees,” says Garkun.

After her visit to Sioux Falls, it’s back to Germany, where they’ve been told to be careful what they say and post while in the country. Surprisingly, not all are supportive in Germany, which is unique compared to other parts of Europe.

“We have this spirit of courage because they can destroy our will to be free,” says Garkun. She believes the Russians are jealous of that spirit.

And despite the danger, she hopes to return to her hometown and dreams of it every day.

She wants to work alongside her family and church members as they help refugees.

“I haven’t ever experienced that love that we felt when we were serving refugees. You know, it’s something unbelievable,” says Garkun.

Tanya will be speaking of her experiences and how others can support refugees Sunday, May 8th, at Sioux Falls First Church, at 5 pm. The event is free to attend.

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