By Rick Dayton

WEXFORD (KDKA) — After reading a newspaper story, the plight of Ukrainian orphans tugged at the heartstrings of a local couple and they felt called to do something for two of those special kids.

They are strangers in a strange land.

Siblings Roman and Natalia lived in the United States with Don Rainville and Rocky Paulone for a month – a long way from their home in a Ukrainian orphanage.

“We want to help these kids. Their situation over there isn’t very good. It’s pretty grim,” said Rainville. “When I went online to the program and just started looking at the children and reading their little profiles, I was just balling.”

Rocky has two grown boys, and Don has four kids and eight grandchildren; but they opened their home to two youngsters who love to cook, pack their own lunches and play with American kids at church camp.

Despite knowing little English, 13-year-old Roman is hardly shy. Natalia, 11, uses technology to soak up English. The Google translator on Rainville’s phone helps bridge the language barrier.

“We’ve learned whole new ways to get our meaning across. It’s been good. But the best way to get the meaning across [is] with a hug, a smile and some love,” said Rainville. “They respond to that because they don’t get that too much over there.”

“They didn’t come with any clothes, so we had to buy them more than one thing. Once they had the one outfit, they thought that they were done. So, we bought them another set of clothes and they were so amazed,” said Paulone. “I bought her a little pair of tennis shoes and you would have thought I bought her a new Nintendo set. She was so happy to get her own pair of tennis shoes. Over there they have community clothes.”

Hard to believe that when she got to the United States, Natalia didn’t even know how to ride a bike. Now, it’s one of her favorite things to do. Perhaps that’s because back in Ukraine that wasn’t even a possibility.

“In their orphanage in Ukraine, they told us they have one bicycle for 200 children. So when they came to our house and went into the garage, there are five bicycles hanging from the ceiling,” said Paulone. “They thought it was pretty neat that they could just go pick their bicycle and go ride it.”

Rainville and Paulone both feel they get more out of the visit than the kids. Paulone hopes many others in Pittsburgh will share their joy.

“That would be a gift, if we could get a whole plane full,” said Paulone. “There’s another group coming at Christmas time, and I would love to have a plane come to Pittsburgh with orphans.”


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