When Maxine and Bryce Luchterhand saw photos of two young Ukrainian boys standing beside armored tanks in what used to be their hometown playground, the Wisconsin couple knew they had to do something to help.
“It was a feeling like they could be hit [by bombs] at any time,” Maxine says, remembering the moment they decided to serve as sponsors to the boys and their parents, Olesia and Mykola Hnatiuk. “We have grandchildren the same age.”
That moment opens “One Good Reason,” a 25-minute documentary about how the Hnatiuks fled war-torn Lviv, Ukraine, and found safety and compassion with the Luchterhands 4,800 miles away in Unity, Wisconsin, population 384.
The film, which premiered June 7 at the Tribeca Festival, spotlights how an online platform called Welcome Connect empowers displaced persons seeking refuge in the U.S. to safely find it. They can message potential sponsors back and forth in their native language, build relationships, and make informed decisions about their future.
Created by the nonprofit organization Welcome.US in partnership with Goldman Sachs and ServiceNow, the system was designed and built on the Now Platform in just six weeks to meet the immediate needs of connecting thousands of Ukrainians forced to flee with Americans, sometimes complete strangers, willing to be the bridge to their safety.
To date, nearly 850 sponsorship connections have been made, benefiting more than 2,000 Ukrainians.
“One of the things I love most about the Welcome Connect platform is that it’s led by refugee choice,” says Nazanin Ash, CEO of Welcome.US. “Is this the family you want to be connected with? Is this the community you want to go to? Are these folks the ones that are going to provide you what you want?”
Initially, the Hnatiuks weren’t sure about leaving Ukraine. But when Mykola’s brother, who had volunteered to fight with the Ukrainian Army, was declared missing in action, they registered on Welcome Connect. Soon they found the Luchterhands, who were offering refuge on the rural farm where generations of their family have lived for 121 years.
The documentary contrasts the sound of air raid sirens and bombs in Ukraine with the calls of wildlife in the snow-laden forests around Unity.
“Your home should be your fortress—comfortable, quiet, safe. That’s what home should feel like,” says Olesia as she reflects on her new life. “In Ukraine, we lost that feeling. And here, we have found it again.”
She and her family aren’t the only ones who’ve benefited from their journey to the U.S. “All of these experiences are two-way streets. We gain so much,” Bryce says as the film draws to a close on the new circle of friends celebrating with homemade borscht.
“You can think of a hundred reasons not to do something, but there’s usually one good reason to do it. So, here we are.”
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