17-year-old Ukrainian refugee looking for host family in Bayonne

The teenager plans to finish his senior year at Bayonne High School

A 17-year-old Ukrainian refugee is looking for a host family to stay with in Bayonne. A senior in high school, he is looking to complete his schooling at Bayonne High School.

Second Ward City Councilwoman Jacqueline Weimmer is involved in the efforts to find the young refugee a place to stay. Weimmer is working with fellow resident and realtor Stacy Gemma, who she said is taking the lead in the efforts locally.

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“Stacy brought me in to this,” Weimmer said. “We’re both just dedicated to human interest and trying to lend a hand whenever we can.”

Searching for somewhere to stay

Together Weimmer and Gemma are working with nonprofit Ukrainian Jersey City to help the teen. The organization has been involved in assisting refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“They’ve been taking in refugees,” Gemma said of the organization. She become involved with Ukrainian JC after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The 17-year-old boy is one of those refugees that the organization is helping. He is currently in Jersey City, but wants to come to Bayonne. Out of concern for his privacy and his age, Weimmer identified him only as “George,” and withheld his last name.

Weimmer and Gemma have been looking for a family for George for some time now. Weimmer has been posting about the teen’s search on social media in August and September, hoping to get the message out in every way possible and find someone willing to help him out.

“He’s not in Bayonne right now, but that’s his desire to come to Bayonne,” Gemma said. “He wanted to go to Bayonne High School and finish up his last year of school. He reached out to Ukrainian JC to help him and to find a host family. So that’s where we’re at, we need to find him a host family and just get so he gets through school.”

The host family would need to be able to take George in for an indeterminate amount of time to help him graduate. Weimmer said that he could also use an additional assistance he can get from the community, as he wants to stay in Bayonne and become a U.S. citizen.

“What we want is obviously a host family to help get him back into school, help him get educated, but really help him to integrate into life here in Bayonne and the U.S.” Weimmer said. “It’s his hope to eventually stay here and become a citizen and take on life here in America. He wants nothing more to be able to finish his education, to get out into the workforce, wanting to be a productive part of the community.”

Separated from his family

The teen has been separated from his parents as he fled the war. His parents had to stay back in Ukraine.

“He had parents in Ukraine,” Weimmer said. “With such turmoil, knowing that his could not care for his son any longer, his father encouraged him to flee.”

“Both his parents, his mom and his dad stayed back,” Gemma said. “You can hear it in their voices. They are very worried.”

Gemma described George as “very self-sufficient.” That is already evident in that he has made it to the U.S. after fleeing Ukraine by himself at age 17.

However, he now desperately needs a place to stay so he can finish school. Weimmer said a pre-meeting can be arranged to meet with the teen for anyone interested in opening up their homes to him.

“It’s horrible,” Gemma said. “He texts me everyday asking if we had found a family yet.”

Any Bayonne families interested in taking George into their home for an indeterminate period of time while he finishes his schooling can reach out to Weimmer’s office by phone or email. For more information, email jweimmer@baynj.org or dial 201-858-6018.

“Anyone who can help can come to me and we will do everything we can,” Weimmer said. “Right now, we’re looking for a host family. But we will do everything we can to assist in applying for available benefits and helping get him integrated into the school system. We will lend as much support as we can, support in the way of assistance. I don’t know how much financial support we will be able to muster up, but as far as public benefits and things of that nature, we will assist in trying for all of that and apply for anything and everything that might be available to him.”

Any assistance is welcome

Other types of support are also welcome for George and others affected by the war in Ukraine, she said: “If anybody wants to offer any financial boost, clothing for children, school supplies, anything of that nature. We’re still willing to get that to people who can use it.”

Weimmer highlighted the difficulties the Ukrainians currently face in the war torn country. Many Ukrainians also live in Bayonne, with family overseas that have also been suffering since Russian dictator Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“We are looking for someone to come on as a host family,” Weimmer said. “…If I could take this opportunity to encourage and beg of the community to consider what’s going on in Ukraine. We have families down here that have immediate family members in Ukraine that they’ve lost touch with, that they can’t get to, that they don’t know if they are safe or not. We can’t lose sight of the fact that our members of our own community are living every day in turmoil, not following their mother, father, even siblings, and in some cases children.”

The move to help the young refugee is the latest iteration of support for Ukraine in Bayonne, which has a sizeable population of Ukrainians. In addition to a donation drive, the community has been holding prayer gatherings, a candlelight vigil, and even a benefit concert held by the Board of Education featuring the Ukrainian Chorus “Dumka” of New York. On top of that, the city blocked out Putin’s name on the “Teardrop” 9/11 Memorial, and local businesses have been donating proceeds to benefit Ukraine.

“Many people leave those countries in Eastern Europe for a better opportunity and to try to make a life for themselves here in the U.S.,” Weimmer said, “and they oftentimes will leave behind a child, their parents, their brothers and sisters, and start this whole new life with the intent of helping their family there. Now they are at a loss, they have no contacts, don’t know where to go, and have almost no one there to turn to. It’s a very difficult situation and I just want our community to not lose sight of that. They need help. And if we have anyone willing to do that, we would appreciate some help.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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