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Connected forever: Ukrainian family makes progress 6 months after moving in with Westlake woman

It's been half a year since the Malieiev family left their war-torn Ukraine for a better life.

WESTLAKE, Ohio — It's been about six months since the Malieiev family arrived in the United States from their native Ukraine.

Bob, his wife Sasha, and their kids — 9-year-old Platon and 14-year old Emma — came here with one suitcase each, and hearts still tender about what they'd been through.

"I remember in slow motion, and I felt this huge force on me from that explosion," Bob told us back in March while speaking his native language. "Everyone was so scared."

The journey has been challenging as they try to master English, find jobs, and get the kids adjusted to their new schools. Their touchtone in this transition has been Cathy Tasse, who took the family in back in March. She also recognizes their struggles and admires their strength.

"It's fascinating and fun to go through these things, but I am walking in their shoes, walking with them, and sometimes it's daunting," Cathy told us when we sat down with her again in July. "Sometimes, the challenges are so big that I'm the one crying and they're still tough, and I'm like, 'This is really hard.'"

Tasse lost her husband, Jeff, about a year ago. Before he passed, they decided together to open up their home to a family from Ukraine.

"I have a beautiful life. I had a beautiful life before and I have a beautiful life now," Cathy said. "Makes me a little sentimental, but it's wonderful, and I know that Jeff would love everything that they're doing for me."

It's a life she's seen grow richer because of the Malieiev family, whom she now considers her own. In fact, she wants to continue helping them until they get on their feet here in America.

"My initial offer to them was to stay for six months," Cathy told us. "By the time four months rolled around, I asked them to stay for another year."

She appreciates everything they do for her.

"Every day I have company to do something — drive me to the airport, take care of my cat. I mean, I have somebody doing my beautiful lawn now. I mean, there's so many things that they do that's handy," Cathy told us. "[Bob's] extremely handy. He's fixing things in the house. Sasha's cooking every day, and the kids are very entertaining. They're very interesting to talk to. It's very fun, and in some ways I think that there are things that I did throughout my whole life that led me to this exact experience."

Sasha has been getting used to her new role. After months of English classes and earning her driver's license, she landed a full-time accounting job downtown. Earlier this summer, she let 3News tag along on her commute.

"Yes, I'm so happy," she told us. "I'm lucky because I have good job. Yes. It's a beautiful place, my boss and my office."

Sasha says she has an excellent motivator, too: Cathy.

"Yes, I believe [she] very [much] love[s] me and my family," she said of Cathy's encouraging words to her. "She believe[s] you can. It's your free future."

They're soaking everything in, from the silly moments from one another's day to the peaceful ones, where they can sit and read without fear. What they're cherishing most these days is being together — they like to take family bike rides through the neighborhood or visit Huntington Beach.

"Yesterday, with Cathy, I go here and swim," Platon told us.

For Bob, he feels like he made the right decision in coming here to give his wife and kids a better life.

"[I'm] very happy," he said. "My family [is] safe."

They still have a long way to go: Bob is still searching for work since they need two incomes, and they're still ironing out citizenship, insurance, and things to survive on their own. However, they also believe hope is on the horizon. 

And, love? They know they have it right here with Cathy.

"Cathy, you are my mother, second mother here," Bob said, "because you loves me, loves my son, loves my daughter, loves my wife. It's beautiful."

"I'm sure we'll all stay connected forever," Cathy added.

A GoFundMe account has been established for the family. If you'd like to help them, click HERE.

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