(WSVN) - Friday marks one year since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. In tonight’s Spotlight, we introduce you to a South Florida couple who helped a family fleeing that violence. They say opening their hearts and their home ended up giving them much more in return. 7’s Kevin Ozebek has their story.
When the Russian invasion began a year ago in Ukraine, all Shawn and Jennifer Wilson could do was watch.
Jennifer Wilson: “We were constantly seeing it, and we felt just so bad, and we felt so helpless.”
Their first thought was to donate money to Ukrainian charities.
Jennifer Wilson: “It just didn’t feel like enough, like we really, ‘Well, what can we do?’ So I found this website, Ukraine Take Shelter, so I said, ‘Well, we have a couple of extra bedrooms to offer.'”
Shawn and Jennifer signed up to host refugees in their Plantation home. A couple with two children and their grandmother needed a place to stay.
Shawn and Jennifer offered up their home.
Shawn Wilson: “It’s just the two of us and like, ‘Wow, maybe our quiet weekends are maybe coming to an end soon.'”
Shawn and Jennifer quickly went from a family of two to a family of seven.
Shawn Wilson: “They were super nice and such a sweet family, and there was a really just easy connection right away.”
Meet the Korniienko family: Anna, her husband Vasiyl, 12-year-old Polina, 18-month-old Mischka and grandmother Elena.
Anna and her family fled their home in Kyiv the day before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
Anna Korniienko: “We just thought that it will be a few months or maybe a few weeks.”
But nearly a year later, they are still living with the Wilsons.
The family contributes to household expenses. Vasiyl recently received clearance to work, and Anna runs an online business, while Elena watches over the kids.
Anna says, although things were a little awkward at first, she and her family are happy.
Anna Korniienko: “That’s all because of Jennifer and Shawn here. They make us happy here.”
Shawn and Jennifer say the Korniienkos have brought new life into their home, along with some delicious new traditions.
Kevin Ozebek: “OK, so what’s the favorite Ukrainian custom they brought it into this home?”
Jennifer Wilson: “The borscht.”
On Friday nights, Elena makes everyone a dinner of borscht, a Ukrainian soup made from beets.
Of course, I had to try some.
Kevin Ozebek: “That is so good. This borscht really is delicious.”
Jennifer Wilson: “I think it’s very savory. It’s like a vegetable broth. It’s really good.”
After dinner, everyone kicks back for game night. It’s something 12-year-old Polina looks forward to every week.
Kevin Ozebek: “So what do you think of it here now? You’ve been here most a year. Are you liking it?”
Polina Korniienko: “I love it.”
Although the Korniienkos are enjoying their time in South Florida, they can’t forget about the war and their loved ones still in Ukraine.
While they hope to return one day, they also are considering making Broward County their permanent home.
Anna Korniienko: “It’s hard to say, because one part of my heart is definitely here, and second part is still there.”
While Anna and her family consider their options, Shawn and Jennifer say their door remains open.
Jennifer Wilson: “I think part of giving is that you don’t have to gain anything from it, but it’s just so meaningful.”
Shawn Wilson: “They feel like family, and they really are family at this point.”
And it all began because of one South Florida couple’s desire to help another family halfway around the world.
Kevin Ozebek, 7News.
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