GENESEO, N.Y., July 12, 2023 — When Vitalii Tsykilov, his wife Kateryna, and their young daughter first came to the U.S. from the war-torn Ukrainian city of Donetsk, they found themselves in an unfamiliar land surrounded by strangers speaking a language they could barely understand. Thanks to the support services provided by Livingston County and local organizations, and the kindness and generosity of the County’s residents, the Tsykilovs are now on the road to building a new, stable life here in the heart of the Genesee Valley.
After eight long years of waiting followed by a month-long journey through Europe, the Tsykilovs finally arrived in America under the “Uniting for Ukraine” visa program on October 20, 2022. In order to participate in the program, the family had to secure a sponsor within the local community, which they found in the Town of Geneseo. A welcoming couple in the Town of Avon then opened their home to the family, agreeing to shelter them there as they acclimated to their new surroundings.
Despite the language barrier and cultural differences, the Tsykilovs were determined to make the most of their new start. Livingston County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) played a key role in the family’s transition to American life, providing them with health insurance, food assistance, and financial support for essentials. DSS also helped Vitalii and Kateryna sign up for English language classes through CORE The Learning Center, including transportation there and back, and daycare for their daughter while the two attended class.
Through its contract with DSS, Catholic Charities of Steuben/Livingston also stepped in to help the displaced family, assisting with case management, job searches, and educational needs. Samantha Stenzel, Lead Employment Case Manager with the organization, has been working closely with the Tsykilovs since their arrival here. They needed to use a translation service during their initial meetings, but after consistently attending English classes, Stenzel said the two have made great strides toward fluency in the language, and becoming settled in to their new home.
“Watching these two clients grow within our program has given me so much joy. I see great success in their future that all stems from the great partnerships and resources utilized here in Livingston County,” said Stenzel.
When Vitalii expressed interest in pursuing a career in the transportation industry, Stenzel coordinated with Livingston County’s Office of Workforce Development to help him obtain his commercial driver’s license (CDL). The CDL training was expensive, presenting a major hurdle for a refugee starting over in a new country. But the community rallied around Vitalii to help him achieve his goal. Workforce Development helped cover some of the cost through a series of grants, Canandaigua Driving School offered a discount on their CDL training course, and Catholic Charities of Steuben/Livingston helped with the remainder, resulting in no out of pocket costs for Vitalii. Stenzel even assisted Vitalii with getting his CDL study materials in both English and Russian. She helped Vitalii complete his permit application and, through her organization, was able to get the permit test fee covered for him, as well.
“This is a great story of a family that immigrated to this country for opportunity and how the community, County government and the non-profit community is working together to help make it possible,” said Ryan Snyder, Office of Workforce Development Director. “The Tsykilovs are working very hard to try and build a better life here and the many organizations collaborating in that effort should be recognized for their outstanding work.”
Despite the challenges they’ve faced, the Tsykilovs are optimistic for the future and grateful for the opportunity to build a new life in America.
“We really like this country and much of how everything is arranged here,” explained Vitalii. “The law works here and this is strength. And most importantly for us, wonderful people live here who are kind and sympathetic, and there are a lot of them here. In this country, we do not feel like immigrants. The attitude of people and organizations towards us is the same as towards Americans. People are very tolerant and we like it.”
Catholic Charities Steuben/Livingston is a non-profit organization dedicated to building communities that care for all people by strengthening and enriching the quality of life for individuals, families, and children; working to reduce poverty; and advocating for social justice. For more, visit https://ccsteubenlivingston.org/.
Are you interested in learning how Livingston County Workforce Development can help you achieve your dreams? Call the office at (585) 243-7047 or visit www.livingstoncounty.us/285/Workforce-Development today.
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About Livingston County:
Founded in 1821, Livingston County, N.Y., is comprised of more than 61,000 residents in 17 towns located across 631 square miles of the Finger Lakes region.