KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the United States comes just as 30 Ukrainians who have been stranded in the Kansas City metro for 10 months are planning to start returning to Europe.
They were in the United States for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Conference when Russia invaded. It forced them to quickly relocate to the Kansas City metro and temporarily work out of FCA’s office space.
“We, at first, had a two-week plan, then we converted it to a two-month plan,” said FCA Chief Field Officer Dan Britton. “And it was like, ‘OK God, it looks like longer than two months.”
When the first missiles started falling in Ukraine on February 24, FCA North Global Divisional Vice President Andriy Kravtsov was part of the visitors watching their homeland turn into a warzone.
“You just can’t believe this is actually happening,” said Kravtsov, recounting watching the early images of the invasion. “Is this a movie we’re watching?”
Since then, they’ve transitioned from refugees in spare bedrooms back to their mission work, even when it means bringing that work to their home county.
Over the last ten months, the Ukrainian visitors to the metro have moved from host family homes to their own apartments and houses, getting their own cars, and setting up 15 sports camps in Ukraine during the war. That effort has given more than 4,000 children in a country under attack a chance to take their mind off the war, if even for just a little bit.
“The kids come to train and they don’t have to think about all that stuff,” said Kravtsov. “They just play and experience the joy.”
The plan is for the group to slowly start moving back to Ukraine or other parts of Europe to continue their work locally.
Around February and March, a year after the war started, Kravtsov syas his team will start the move.
It’ll be a return home to a place that is drastically different from what they left.
“One of my friends who is fighting, he says, ‘Can you just show me normal life? Show me what normal life looks like,” Kravtsov said.