Ukrainian refugee family finds shelter and safety in home of Santa Monica family after crossing many borders

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) — The Lauer house in Santa Monica is the kind of place where, it seems, every neighborhood kid knows well.

But on Friday, one family walked into a new beginning.

Fifteen-year-old Mark fled Ukraine with his mom, brother, uncle and uncle’s girlfriend and arrived in Poland on March 7. Forced to flee their homeland as Russian soldiers invaded, the Ukrainian family crossed border after border and finally found shelter and safety in the home of a local family in Santa Monica.

Mark’s grandmother, Oksana, lives in a small apartment in Southern California. She helped connect the family with the Lauers, who felt they needed to help after seeing the nonstop attacks.

“It seemed just so far away,” said Andy Lauer, a member of the family. “But it was at our doorstep, and if there was something we could do, why not?”

The two families don’t speak the same languages. They get by with the help of Google Translate and friends.

“Our neighbors have helped. Everyone has chipped in,” Lauer said. “It’s made our community better.”

One of the neighbors, whose family is also from Ukraine, baked bread for the refugee family. Another gifted them a pie as a peace offering.

Mark and his family are doing fine but are still tired. They have left so much behind.

“I talk with father, grandmother, grandpa,” Mark said. “And I have two dogs in Ukraine right now.”

For all that they do not know, they do have at least one answer.

“Five people are here, safe, and they’re going to be safe,” Lauer said. “That’s all we can do, just a little bit at a time.”

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