'I can't do anything:' Student from Ukraine living in Texas concerned about her family

Brooke Taylor Image
Monday, February 28, 2022
Parents hosting Ukrainian student helps her family flee to safety
Anya Arseienko's host parents just want to reunite her with her family who is stuck in Ukraine. The teen's father isn't even allowed to leave because he's required to stay to fight.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A family in Montgomery County who is hosting a 16-year-old foreign exchange student from Ukraine is helping her family as they desperately try to flee to safety. Without a home, jobs or any income, and limited belongings, the girl's family just wants to reunite with her and escape the Russian invasion.

Anya Arseienko has been attending Lake Creek High School in Montgomery ISD since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

Anya's original host family was moving but then she met a girl named Samantha. Samantha went straight to her parents.

"Samantha came off the bus one day and asked if we would take in a foreign exchange student," Nicole Boniface said. "I said, 'Sure, let's ask your dad, we'll do it.' A little bit of paper work later and we are here."

Nicole and Brian Boniface have two daughters of their own. They quickly fell in love with Anya, who has become part of their family. However, their role as host parents has taken on a greater significance.

The teenager's family is stuck in Ukraine as they try to leave their homeland that's being attacked by Russia.

SEE RELATED STORY: Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert as Russian troops bombard Ukrainian capital

"It's heartbreaking," Anya said. "I can't even sleep. I can't do anything."

Her family is from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Anya said she has been speaking with friends and cousins who are unable to leave and are taking shelter in bunkers, without food and in the cold.

"My friends are scared, my family is scared, everyone is scared," Anya said.

Her immediate family escaped to a village near Poland, but they are having trouble getting to the border.

"It's winter. It's cold," Nicole said. "She has a 9-year-old sister and a 98-year-old grandmother. She isn't capable of walking 15 hours. That's the struggle right now."

All Ukrainian men 16 to 60 years old must stay in the country to fight, so Anya's father isn't allowed to leave.

SEE RELATED: Hundreds of Houstonians 'Stand With Ukraine' as Russia invades Ukraine

"I can't think he won't come," Anya said. "It's impossible. My mind doesn't realize he can't come."

Nicole and Brian are trying to get her family to America once they are able to cross the border. Nicole and Brian started to crowdfund, and the community has already raised thousands of dollars.

The money will go toward travel expenses, shelter, food, and whatever else Anya's family needs.

To donate, visit the Give Send Go page the family has set.

Anya has become involved in her school's student council and said her heart is warmed by all the students and staff who are supporting her. Everyone at Lake Creek High School will wear blue and yellow next week to show their support for Ukraine.

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