SPOKANE, Wash. – This is what a conversation sounds like with someone who is trapped in a war zone, in the words of Boris Borisov, who came to Spokane as a Ukrainian refugee in 1992:
“How are you doing, we’re okay today, the sirens are going on, the bombs are dropping, this person died,” Borisov said.
Borisov is the co-founder of the Ukraine Relief Coalition in Spokane, and he came to the states 30 years ago with the first wave of Slavic refugees. He was five years old when he and his family first arrived in the Garland District.
“I love Spokane, I’m a Spokane boy,” Borisov said. “But then when the war broke out, I was like, these are also my people, and we need to do something.”
Spokane is Borisov’s home, but Ukraine holds much of his heart. He has visited the country a few times, and keeps in touch with family and friends who are still in Ukraine.
“I grew up in two worlds,” Borisov said. “The Slavic world, I went to church, I went to Russian Ukrainian school, and then I went to Willard Elementary.”
Today, Boris, along with a team of Spokane leaders, including more Ukrainian refugees, is helping to give a new home to refugees who are coming straight from the war zone in Ukraine, whose homes have been destroyed.
“We’re well positioned for this because we grew up in that culture, but we also grew up here in Spokane, so we know the systems, we went to schools here,” Borisov said. “There’s a sense of duty, we were helped greatly by the Spokane community when we came here.”
When Mark Finney, founder of Thrive International, asked Borisov to be part of the community’s effort to provide housing and support for Ukrainian refugees, Borisov quickly said yes.
The Thrive Center, which came to be thanks to the collaboration between the city, Thrive International, and the Ukraine Relief Coalition, opened June 6 at the abandoned Quality Inn on Fourth Avenue. The Thrive Center is a safe place for refugees to call home until they are ready to support themselves.
“Seeing people walk in the doors here, seeing them smile, hearing a few little stories about how people feel welcome in this community and they feel cared for, is really, really special,” Finney said.
For Finney, Borisov, and their entire team, the mission at the Thrive Center is this:
“Our goal is to help people move from surviving to thriving,” Finney said.
And for refugees coming fresh out of a war zone, the Thrive Center offers a welcomed sense of security.
“We can partner with amazing people like that and give them what they need to move beyond survival, into being at a place where they can really thrive.”
The center has already filled 72 of the rooms inside the former hotel, and the numbers continue to climb.