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Billings man welcomes Ukrainian son to America

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Posted at 7:10 PM, Jul 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-05 12:59:04-04

On Independence day, a former Ukrainian man living in Billings has even more reason to celebrate.

He has such an appreciation for the country that he has helped others in his family get to America.

Yuri Abramov escaped the old USSR and arrived the United States, 39 years ago.

He has been in Montana since 1994 and became a U.S. citizen while he was living in Great Falls.

He moved to Billings in 2016.

And last month he may have had the biggest day of his life.

"I remember when brother came, I started to cry," Abramov said, while his friends assured him he was doing great.

Yuri Abramov, Sr. welcomed Yuri, Jr. to Billings Logan International Airport on June 24.

"Thirty-eight years we didn't see each other," Yuri, Sr. said. "And now we united. Now family. Father and son."

"It's been a long road for a Yuri, Jr.

He escaped from Ukraine near the beginning of the war, went through Europe to Mexico and then to Billings, leaving behind all he had.

"I said, please leave everything right there," Yuri, Sr. told his son. "We need to save your life because Ukraine and Russia in that war. Is 100% chance to die. So for me like father, number one, I want to save my son's life."

"Here in the United States, the family's friends including members of First Congregational Church greeted Yuri, Jr.

"We've been praying with Yuri since we first found out that his son mwas coming, so it's been a journey for all of us," said Jan Hawk, who goes to First Congregational Church with Yuri and his wife.

"We pray for Volodymyr and then now for Yuri, Jr.," said Lisa Harmon, pastor at First Congregational. "And just for Ukraine and for the conflict."

Volodymyr Pronin is Yuri, Sr.'s brother.

Pronin arrived in Billings in October and has since moved to Maryland for a job and to be closer to other family members.

Already Yuri, Jr. can see the difference between his homeland and the United States.

"He can feel it that people have freedom right here," Yuri, Sr. translated from his son. "They're not worried. Like different planet."

And even after 38 years apart, junior and senior still have a close bond.

Yuri listened to his son and then repeated in Russian what he said.

"I need to switch," Yuri, Sr, said.

He says he also forgets to make the switch when he listens to English and then talks with someone, such as his son, in English instead of Russian.

"He's very happy now," Yuri, Sr. said. "He's in the United States, and he wants to be good, American Citizen. United States is the best country in the world."