SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For nearly 3 months, 15-year-old Mikhail Savin has been watching his home country of Ukraine go through a war while his family fled the country. But thanks to a fundraiser from members of the Sioux Falls and O’Gorman community, Mike is one step closer to being reunited with his family.

Mikhail, or Mike, Savin found out via a group chat with his friends that war had broken out in his country. Due to inconsistent Internet access, Mike and his billet family in Sioux Falls struggled to communicate with his family at the start of the war.

“It’s really hard when there’s a war in Ukraine and I can’t explain how it feels when it’s a war in your country,” Mike said.

Mike’s billet, or host, mother, Jean Davis, said that for the first few weeks the family had many sit-down conversations with Mike to process what was happening in Ukraine.

“Mike, for a 15-year-old boy, going through, I almost call it a trauma, going through that, his parents, you know, 5,200 miles away and being able for him to deal with that, deal with the emotions, deal with the anger, the fear, the frustration, the sadness and watching him go through that was just incredible to me,” Jean Davis said.

To show support of Ukraine, Falls Park was lit up blue and yellow. Courtesy: Jean David

When the City of Sioux Falls lit up the Arc of Dreams and Falls Park in blue and yellow in support of Ukraine, Davis brought Mike to see them. They took a few pictures and a video thanking the city for their support of Mike’s country.

That video was then sent to Mayor Paul TenHaken who got in touch with the family to schedule a meeting at City Hall.

“He helped me to keep me calm,” Mike said. “He just kind of explained to me that Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Ukrainian community in Sioux Falls support me and my family.” 

Together, Mike and the mayor talked about the support of the community and TenHaken told Mike about the Ukrainian community and churches in Sioux Falls as places to look to for support. TenHaken also gave Mike a bracelet in support.

“Mike just left there and he was so proud. And the mayor sent him with a special band and Mike cherishes that,” Davis said.

In a statement to KELOLAND News, TenHaken described Mike as a “great young man.”

“…My heart has been heavy for him and his family,” TenHaken wrote. “I’m so excited they are one step closer to being united, and I will continue to keep the people of Ukraine in my thoughts and prayers.”

As the war has progressed, Mike’s father, Mikhail, was able to leave Ukraine with the permission of the president.

“[The] Ukrainian president told him that he can be out of Ukraine, but he’s supposed to make a movie about Russian-Ukrainian war,” Mike said. “It feels way better when your parents are safe and they’re in a safe zone.”

Mike describes the war in his home country as a ‘battle of rockets’ but is feeling better after Russia failed to take his city of Kyiv.

With help from his support system here in Sioux Falls, he’ll be reunited with his family in Canada this summer.

“I had these five amazing women who said, ‘hey, we reached out to Thunder Road, we reached out, they want to do a fundraiser for Mike. Really bring awareness,'” Jean Davis, Mike’s billet mom, said.

The goal is for Mike’s father to fly to Sioux Falls and then together they will travel to Canada where his mother and brother will be waiting. Right now, Mike’s mother is trying to enroll him in school while Davis is working with Mike and his family on his passport as well as using her contacts to find Mike a hockey team to play with.

Mike’s billet family say they’ve learned a lot from their time with him.

“It’s actually one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, how much a community comes together and not only that, like how much I have came together too as a person in caring about the world as a whole, rather than just the US as itself,” Lizzie Davis, Mike’s friend and billet sister, said.

Once Mike leaves this summer, it will be the end of his time with the Davis family. But Davis said that she hopes one day they will be able to reunite if the Savin family is able to relocate to the U.S.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to cross paths again as well as just stay in contact through Snapchat and social media,” Davis said. 

Mike will always have memories and love from Sioux Falls to take with him when he finally sees his parents again.

“And I’m really glad that people support me, Ukraine, my family,” Mike said.

If you’d like to support the Savin family’s relocation to Canada, you can donate to the GoFundMe set up here.