Ukrainian couple starts new life in township

Journey to the states began with Russia’s February invasion

Eugene Aleksashenko hugs his fiance Anna Tomash outside his mother’s home in Medford, where they have started over. Their lives in Ukraine were upended by Russia’s February invasion.

Inside a 15th-floor apartment in Boryspil, a small suburb in Kyiv, Ukraine, Eugene Aleksashenko, and his fiance Anna Tomash, were awakened by an explosion in the early morning of Feb. 24.

As the couple walked out to their balcony overlooking Ukraine’s largest airport in Boryspil, they could see where the explosion that shook their entire apartment building came from: The airport was on fire – and their country was being invaded by Russia.

- Advertisement -

With little to no time to think about what was happening around them, 33-year-old Aleksashenko and his 21-year-old fiance grabbed a few important items and jumped into his car, driving hours to reach the border of Slovakia, where their vehicle broke down. Luckily, the couple was within walking distance of the border, which they crossed to find a refugee camp.

Outside the Slovakia border, the couple met a Ukrainian man who was going to meet his family in Portugal. Once there, Aleksashenko and Tomash got a flight to Mexico, then crossed the U.S. border on foot, where they were met by two Medford residents: Aleksashenko’s mother, Olga, and her partner, Boris Kazansky.

Years earlier, Olga told her son about a vision she had of war between  Russia and Ukraine, and the explosions that would come, but her son didn’t  think much of it at the time. When his mother decided to leave Ukraine in 2017,  she took with her Aleksashenko’s sister, Kseniia Kilimnik, who now lives in Brooklyn. 

In Medford, Aleksashenko and Tomash met Joe Maggelet and Bluma Smith, a Ukrainian artist at the Medford Arts Center originally from Odessa, Ukraine.

“They are very friendly, nice, helpful, respectul and hard-working people,” Smith said of the Ukrainian couple. “They are very grateful for any help they can get.” 

 Back in Kyiv, Aleksashenko and Tomash were planning their wedding and a life in their country. Aleksashenko, a successful videographer and film editor based in Kyiv, recently worked on a 120-minute documentary about the legacy of the Holocaust in Ukraine, called “Never Again.” Tomash was a student at Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics. 

Now, they are starting with a blank slate in Medford, while an end to the war in their homeland is nowhere in sight. 

“On Feb. 24, life changed dramatically, and now everything has to start from scratch,” Aleksashenko acknowledged through a translator. “You need to learn the language, do documents, look for housing, look for work, earn a reputation.”

“I will believe that everything will work out for me.” He said.

The couple is seeking work in the area: Tomash wants a job in cosmetology – she was once an eyebrow technician – or in marketing. Her biggest dream is a peaceful sky over her homeland.

“I want to work as a model, start a personal blog, become a cosmetologist and achieve the level of life I already had and then surpass it,” she remarked. ”But if all my dreams could be exchanged for the end of the war, then I would sacrifice it.”

 Aleksashenko seeks a job in videography or photography, among other fields. The couple is now taking English lessons from a tutor at Rowan College in Burlington County. 

To help her brother and Tomash get established in an entirely new place, Kilimnik organized a GoFundMe account with a goal of $15,000; so far, $2,528 has come in. To donate, visit or contact Eugene Aleksashenko via text message at (215) 930-4673 or Anna Tomash at (215) 930-4674.

- Advertisment -