Ukrainian refugee families live empowered and self sufficient lives as citizens of the city of Chicago
Sweet Dome Chicago provides housing for Ukrainian refugee families who have fled their homeland due to war. Our primary function is to welcome refugee families to Chicago by finding them a place to call home and paying their rent.
In addition, we strive to help our refugee families feel at home. As ancillary projects, we collaborate with Chicagoland individuals and businesses to:
provide furniture, home necessities, clothing, and food;
assist our families in finding jobs;
offer legal guidance with the hope of carving a path towards citizenship.
Our goal is to come together as a community to provide the resources and tools these families need and deserve to integrate into Chicago and become self-sufficient and empowered neighbors.
A MESSAGE FROM THE FOUNDERS
Jason Fishbein + Tali Kogan
This mission is personal to us. Tali was born and raised in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. She has blissful memories of time spent on her grandfather’s farm and summer road trips to the coastal oasis town of Odesa. She is deeply proud of her homeland. The current situation has broken our hearts and we feel compelled to help.
We are humbled by the opportunity to form the Sweet Dome Chicago Foundation, which became an official 501(c)(3) organization in May 2022. The name of our foundation comes from the Ukrainian word for home, “дом”. Pronounced “Dome,” this word is an appropriate metaphor of the immediate protection and the life-long impact we wish to provide.
The funds we raise will go directly towards the assistance of Ukrainian families in need. We are grateful for your interest in helping us launch our mission. We are fully committed to providing a meaningful and permanent impact on the people we will be fortunate enough to assist.
We would like to dedicate this Foundation to the loving memory of Tali’s Ukrainian grandparents, Boris Gerovich and Aharon Kogan, who fought in the war 80 years ago to protect their people from the very sort of inhumanity which has besieged them once again today. We would also like to make a dedication to our brave ancestors who made the bold sacrifices required to put us all in the position to pay it back now.
With love, Tali and Jason
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Our primary focus is to raise funds for housing. As founders, we are donating $100,000 to launch our mission. As our community, you can join us by donating whatever amount speaks to your heart.
We will share ancillary projects as they arise where you can donate goods or services to help our families integrate into Chicago. We anticipate needing volunteer immigration legal services, job connections, new clothing and furniture donations. To be involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations are tax deductible to the extent of the law under the IRS code 501(c)(3).
My name is Natalia Panchenko, we came from Ukraine. My family - me, my husband and three kids had escaped from war. We used to live near Kiev where we built ourselves a cozy house, my husband Serhiy had small but stable business.
On a night of February 24th we woke up from sounds of explosions. Our life exploded as well. For the first 3 days we didn’t sleep at all, after that we slept on a floor for a month being constantly awoken by loud bangs. Access to food became scarce, the alarms at night kept us awake - it is impossible to describe everything that went on. When plane crushed 2 kilometers from where we lived we decided to leave.
We heard that boarder between USA and Mexico was open, borrowed money and flue into unknown. It took up 4 days to get to Mexico, we stayed 3 days in refugee camp and finally made it to Chicago.
We weren’t able to rent an apartment and we moved from house to house of Ukrainian and Belorussian people who took us in and where we stayed 1-3 days. Despite unbelievable kindness of those amazing people I felt desperate. It’s a horrible feeling when you have three kids and don’t know where you going to sleep next.
Through volunteer organization we met Irina who helped us to look for housing and then introduced us to Tali. Tali and her family heard our story and decided to pay for our rent for 6 month to give us a chance to live normal life while we get back on our feet. I could not believe that absolute stranger would pay that huge amount that would take us few years to save if we were in Ukraine.
Now, one month had passed, my husband has been working doing odd jobs, kids went to school, our life is slowly stabilizing.
This message is to send out infinite gratitude to Tali and her family who in the most difficult time of our lives were near us and just simply saved us.
If someone had told me in January 2022 that by the month of May 2022 I would change a dozen places of residence, travel all over Ukraine by car, get nauseated by planes, and be glad not to leave home, instead of traveling, which I love so much, I would just raise my eyebrows in disbelief.
Until February 24, life went on, as usual. At the end of January, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and slowly recovered after the cesarean delivery with complications. At the time, our oldest 11 year old daughter was visiting my friend in Chicago and my husband returned to work in Europe after his short visit for the birth of our youngest daughter.
On February 24, I didn’t wake up from explosions, but from my husband’s call “Get ready, the war has begun!” His words sounded ridiculous and strange, we live close to the center of Kharkiv and I didn’t hear explosions from the outskirts of the city. In 15 minutes, when my close friend called and said that she was going to pick me up so that I wouldn’t be left alone with a newborn child, the new reality settled in. I left the house with one bag of diapers and thought that everything would be fine in a day or two. I spent two weeks with my friend's family in Dergachi (12km outside of Kharkiv).
It was horrifying to realize that what is happening is not a movie, but everything is actually happening here and now and every day it only gets worse. Every trip to the store took three hours in line without the slightest idea if you will buy what you need. Food and goods became scarce. Exhaustion from constant lack of sleep and sitting in the basement, periodically without electricity, communications, and water, grew into an understanding that I had to somehow get out and take my baby to a safer place. It was scary to leave the city, but it was even scarier to stay.
What seemed impossible to me a couple of weeks ago, became the only option. With little driving experience which mostly consisted of taking my daughter to and from school, 30 liters of gasoline that I could hardly get, I was terribly afraid that I would not handle the challenging road to Warsaw. I only took the most valuable things from Kharkiv - documents, a camera, and my graphics tablet. I did not understand where we would live and how long we have to leave Ukraine. My worst fear was not being able to work and support myself and my family. We traveled to Warsaw for six long days and nights.
Terrible traffic jams from the similarly frightened people. The gasoline supply shortage was unimaginable, on one stretch of the road we stood in line for 7 hours to fill in 20 liters. This amount could not last me to get to the nearest city in which I had an arranged stay for the night. With tears in my eyes, I begged them to sell me at least ten more liters, because we spent the previous night in the car. I practically fell asleep at the wheel, since we stood rather than drove and there were no consequences. Nursing a baby while driving seemed like a crazy idea at first, but we got used to it quickly.
It was impossible to rent a room, friends of acquaintances helped out, complete strangers from the chain of human connections.
In Warsaw, I was greeted by a friend who already had two families staying with her, so we settled with her friends, then moved to others, at that moment it seemed that the endless series of moves would never end.
During all this time, I was incredibly happy that the eldest daughter was stuck in Chicago. Her return flight for February 27th was cancelled and my friend took care of her as if it were her own child. By the time we discovered the option to travel to the USA through Mexico, it was clear that the war would not end quickly and we had to start life anew somewhere else. We decided to take our chances and go.
After four flights, an unforgettable experience of crossing the border in Tijuana, which, thanks to the volunteers, went as smoothly as possible, my husband, baby and I made it to Chicago where we reunited with our oldest daughter. It would seem that here it is a “happy ending”, but in a new place there are new problems. Despite the tremendous support in everything from our friends, and friends of our friends, who kindly sheltered us for the first month and provided a loving home, the issue of permanent housing remained open. My friend Olga found Tali through social media and introduced her new project Sweet Dome Chicago as a possible assistance resource.
At first, I was very skeptical. You see, charity work is a newer concept in the post-soviet era and in my mind there are people that need help more than I or my kids. Why would a stranger want to solve my problems? It was not easy to change the mindset from the stable average middle-class life status to now being the one asking for help to survive.
Fortunately, I was wrong and happy to have followed the advice to connect with Tali. Tali turned out to be a very pleasant real person, sincerely empathizing with our misfortune. Her Sweet Dome Chicago foundation didn’t just help pay a considerable portion of our rent but gave us the most valuable thing - time. Time that we can now optimize looking for jobs, learning the language, filing paperwork, tending to kids and start forming a new way of life as a family in a new place. And all this with peace of mind and not a single worry that tomorrow we have to move again in endless transit to someplace "next" or will end up on the street. Having a stable and comfortable apartment that we now proudly call HOME is priceless. Thank you Tali and Jason for creating your valuable project Sweet Dome Chicago as a counter to the endless evil that is still happening in Ukraine. My family and I are forever grateful and we look forward to contributing to the project in any way we can.
Yuliia, Vadym and the girls.
If someone had told me 4 months ago that me and my children would go to another continent, I wouldn’t believe it. My name is Tetyana Prusak, I am 41 years old and I’m a mother of three. I am Ukrainian and I have lived near Lviv my entire life.
The story of my great and long journey began on February 28, on the 4th day of the war. I was working in a Polish bank when the bank’s management invited employees with children to move to Poland. I didn’t want to leave my own cosy home and my city, but my husband insisted I take the kids and left while he went to pack up and defend our country, Ukraine.
I didn’t realize that I'd be going away for a long time. I thought everything would be fine in two-three weeks so we could return home.
At this time, the situation in the country became tense.
My long-time friend from school, Nazar, who is also godfather to my older son, lives with his family in the Chicago Suburb. He invited me to come visit him. He filled out all the paperwork, so on the 7th of March I was already at the USA embassy in Warsaw. I was surprised that our visitor's visa had been approved without delay.
On the 17th of March we set foot on American soil. It was our very first flight. And here I am, with my children. In a few days after coming there, I realised that I’m a long way from home, and like to visit the place, but I had something to do. So me and my friends started looking for a job for me.
Thank God the teacher who’s name was Kristine came my way. Her friend works in a depot, so she helped me get the job so I could have a livelihood. After a while, I started to think about housing because there were 10 people in the house, 7 of them were children. 4 of them were my friends and 3 were mine.
As it turns out, there were big problems with apartment rental. We asked friends, then searched for different programs, but I couldn’t reach them.
Once I was scrolling information on Telegram when I saw an announcement of Ukrainian woman called Natalia, that families with many children that had to escape from war in Ukraine can ask for help and could get support. I called her and told her my story. She asked me where my husband was. At that time, he sustained an injury in the battle for Popasna.
Two days later, a woman named Tali called me. She listened carefully to me and promised to help me find an apartment.
This has proved difficult in my situation, because I live in Algonquin and my children go to school there and have friends, so I didn’t want to hurt them with relocation to another part of the city.
Tali introduced me to Irina, who is a qualified expert in real estate. It took a while, but thank God we have found an apartment. It was a great surprise for me when strangers were interested in my problem and helped me not only with finding accommodation but to pay the first six months' rent. It gives me an opportunity to get settled in a foreign country, understand what to do next and don’t worry about financial problems.
Thank you kind people!!!
Hello. My name is Marianna. At the end of February me, my husband and our two kids had left Ukraine and seeking to Poland because of the war. After staying a month and a half in Poland we decided to move to the USA. There we expected a better life for our family in America but it was really difficult. We had no documents, no jobs, we knew nothing. Everything was foreign and new for us. So we started asking for help. And one of our friends shared Tali’s number. We contacted and I told her everything about our situation and Tali also told us about their organization. She listened carefully and promised to help with the apartment. I just can’t describe how excited it was when she said they can pay our 3 month rent!!! We are so happy and so grateful!! It’s a huge help!! Now we can save some money and feel more confident! Just can’t believe how lucky we are! Thanks to all those people who are ready to help and support others! We appreciate it so much! And special thanks to Tali who was open, friendly, kind and supportive! Our family is so grateful!!
Hello, I would like to tell my story of moving to the United States. My name is Inna, and I have three children: 14, 7 and 1 year old. We used to live in Ukraine, in the Chernovtsi city. We should leave when war started, because we lived in multi-storey residential building near the airport. Because of constant air raid alarms, we had to run in the bomb shelter around the clock. When I received invitation from relatives who live in US without hesitation I packed the most necessary things and came to Poland to obtain visas.
Moving and life in Poland were really hard because the country is overcrowded with refugees. When we arrived in USA the most difficult task for us was to find accommodation. There are too little vacant housing, and prices are too high. It became an impossible task for me and my family.
But all the keys hang not at one man's girdle. Through friends I found out there's a charity foundation, Sweet DomeChicago, that supports families from Ukraine during this difficult period. This was like a breath of fresh air, the miracle for my family.
We were looking for an apartment over the several weeks in announcements, posters, on websites and finally we’ve found one suitable for us. We can pay for it, get squarely on our feet and resume normal life through charity Foundation Sweet DomeChicago.
I wish you all good luck, peace, kind and sympathetic people on your life’s journey and would like to express eternal gratitude to the Sweet DomeChicago Foundation.
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