Thanksgiving generosity: Community rallies behind Ukrainian refugee family in Cary

Tom George Image
Thursday, November 23, 2023
Community rallies behind Ukrainian refugee family
Thanksgiving is all about being grateful and finding a way even in the toughest times. One Ukrainian refugee family in Cary has lived that mentality.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Thanksgiving is all about being grateful and finding a way even in the toughest times. One Ukrainian refugee family in the Triangle has exemplified that mentality.

The small Ukrainian flag at their home in Cary is the only reminder of the world the Zhuk family left behind. It's been a tough adjustment starting over completely but they say this Thanksgiving they're grateful for all the help they're getting from the community.

Just a year ago, Dmytro and Oksana Zhuk were in the midst of war. They watched rockets soar over their home in Odessa, and they lost friends in the brutal fighting when Russia invaded their country.

"It's really scary; we hear bombs we hear airplanes," Zhuk said.

SEE ALSO | 'So homesick': Ukrainian refugee in Raleigh reflects on lives lost, one-year mark of war with Russia

As the world marks one year since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, many with ties to the nation mourn the dead while vowing victory.

As thousands fled Ukraine, the Zhuks held on longer than most, staying for more than a year. Since last year, more than 1,000 refugees from Ukraine have settled in the Triangle.

This March, amid concerns for their safety, the Zhuks finally made the difficult choice to leave. They left with their three sons, getting help from refugee organization to settle in Cary.

"I wish for my kids the best future," Zhuk said.

That future hasn't been easy: finding jobs, taking classes to learn English, and struggling to make ends meet.

With their oldest son just barely too young for retail jobs, they turned to the Nextdoor app with a simple request: "My 15-year-old son, who is very responsible, (is) looking to make some extra money to help our family to survive," offering services for anything from walking dogs to yard work.

The Zhuks quickly saw the responses roll in.

"We got a lot of offer about leaves," Zhuk recalled.

Dozens of people offered more than just some cash for yard work.

"Every time I hear 'Oh I pray for (your) country. Are you OK? Do you need some help,'" Zhuk said, adding that people in North Carolina have been very welcoming and he is enjoying it here.

And while they're not sure if or when they'll be able to return home to Ukraine, this first Thanksgiving is one they won't forget.

"It's very good, I appreciate it," Zhuk said.

If you want to support the Zhuk family, or want to respond to the ad for yard work or odd jobs in the Cary area, you can contact them at