(KRON) — Last week, Nexstar’s KRON reported the incredible international rescue effort to bring a cat to the San Francisco Bay Area from Ukraine, so it could be reunited with a little girl who had to flee with her family.
That family left just about everything behind after the war started, but now they’re together in Sonoma County — working on a new start here in America.
There were tears and smiles, hugs and balloons at San Francisco International Airport when 10-year-old Agnessa was finally reunited with her beloved cat, Arsenii. The Bezhenar family, father Alexander, mother Maria, and daughters Eleanor, Angelina and Agnessa are adjusting to their new lives.
Arsenii has a new playmate, a kitten named Tosha. The family is staying in a large country home among vineyards and olive trees near Cloverdale in Sonoma County.
“When Arsenii is with us, it’s like home is with us. Like part of our home is with us,” Maria said.
All of this happened thanks to one man, Geoffrey Peters.
“When the invasion happened, I felt like we needed to do something to help people,” Peters said.
Peters’ efforts to go to Europe to evacuate war refugees didn’t pan out. But he did find an app for Ukrainians seeking help and connect with the Bezhenar family.
“Maria sent an email saying we’ve been matched and we have a family of six,” Peters said. “And so I went to my son and I said instead of renting this house, which he was planning on doing, would you be willing to donate it for two years?”
When the family got to Sonoma County, they had a beautiful, but empty home. That’s when the people of Cloverdale stepped up.
“Everybody pitched in and they furnished the entire house. They started donating money. They donated food. They donated gas cards, they donated gift cards,” Peters said. “Another person found out that the girls are very musically oriented so they donated the piano.”
Cloverdale gave this family a lot, but Cloverdale got a lot back.
“The whole community has learned a few lessons. They learned about Ukraine and about the situation with refugees in Ukraine, but they also learned how to be a community,” Peters said.
The Bezhenars are working on their English and plan to move forward with new lives as Americans. Agnessa is sleeping better at night now that she’s reunited with Arsenii.
The older girls are learning to drive and going to school. Cloverdale is giving the family a good start.
If you want to donate to the Bezhenar family, click here.