Judy Woodruff: The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine extends far beyond its borders.

A few days before the start of the war in February, two Ukrainian artists boarded a plane for Tennessee to exhibit their work and lead workshops. Seven months later, they still cannot return home.

WTCI PBS in Chattanooga tells the story of this resilient couple and the support they received halfway around the world.

This is part of our arts and culture coverage, Canvas.

Victoria Kalaichi, artist (via translator): My name is Victoria Kalaichi. My husband, Denis, and I are Ukrainian artists.

Peggy Townsend, Co-Owner and Director, Townsend Atelier: We met Denis and Victoria, probably four or five years ago.

The proposal was that we have a show and then we would also have a workshop taught by Victoria, with Denis co-teaching.

Marina Peshterianu, Acting Executive Director, Bridge Refugee Services: Everyone was talking about the family coming to Chattanooga for an art exchange.

Denis Sarazhin, artist (by translator): We left Kharkiv for Kyiv on February 22. Unsuspecting, we arrived in Chattanooga. And at that moment, I connected to Wi-Fi. And I got a picture of my dad as he pulled up in front of a gas station. And on the horizon, explosions and black smoke.

Everything was clear what was going on.

Victoria Kalaichi (via translator): Everything has changed. Everything changed in an instant. Our plans, our whole life have changed.

Marina Peshterianu: Nobody knows when they can become refugees. It’s such an unpredictable situation. These are people who have never done anything wrong. Simple external circumstances put them in an extreme situation.

Victoria Kalaichi (via translator): We see in real time the bombardment of our city, our neighborhood. I feel like 10 of my closest relatives died at the same time, and it’s such a tragedy.

I paint because I cannot not paint. It’s a place where I can escape, where I feel safe. It’s a place where I can escape the real problems of the world.

Denis Sarazhin (by translator): Life becomes before and after. You start thinking about those who stayed in Ukraine. And here, in a peaceful environment, you see people walking down the street, smiling, going to restaurants, living their normal lives.

Peggy Townsend: You know, imagine preparing for a year and a half for a solo exhibition and teaching a sold-out workshop. People from all over the country came to take this workshop with her and Denis.

They must attend an opening, teach, and deal with the shock, horror, and all the emotions of being away from home.

Marina Peshterianu: I knew they knew how to deal with it, because we know art heals.

Peggy Townsend: It was so amazing to see how many people came to the opening to support Ukraine, people were wearing yellow and blue, and to support Denis and Victoria.

We started a GoFundMe and raised about $17,000 in about a week. And then people went by checks. People were passing by gift baskets. People were coming and going through all this stuff, calling and saying, hey, do you need a studio? Do you need a place to live?

So every time Denis and Victoria came here, I had something to give them.

Marina Peshterianu: I am just so grateful to the people in our community for giving Ukrainians the opportunity to wait for this terrible situation to end, where they are welcomed with welcoming hands, with open hearts, where they are loved, they are understood.

Victoria Kalaichi (via translator): My gratitude is endless for every single person who even thought of us and whose hearts responded to help us.

Denis Sarazhin (by translator): It restores this idea of ​​faith in people, that people can help each other grow and create, not just destroy. You start believing in people again and you realize that, yes, there are bad people, but there are also good people, and there are a lot of them.

Judy Woodruff: Warm, and what they have been through.

And this report from WTCI PBS in Chattanooga.

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