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Bay View woman opens her Romanian apartment to Ukrainians fleeing violence

Posted at 12:18 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 14:24:45-04

MILWAUKEE — Photographs of some of life's most joyous and beautiful moments are captured by wedding photographer Olga Thomas, who lives in Bay View.

But the ugly side of life is heavy on her mind these days, including war and the atrocities that go with it.

"For me personally it triggers what I have seen in the streets in Bucharest as a child during the revolution," Olga says. "It hits close to home for me."

The Romanian native wants to do her part to help the people of Ukraine.

"I can't do much, but whatever I can do to support these people I will do it," Olga says. "I grew up in a communist country. The regime changed when I was 11. I have vivid memories of when we did not have the freedom of speech."

Seeing the destruction of Ukraine is heartbreaking for Olga.

"I can't imagine having even my home being bombed and taking my schoolyard, where I shared my first kiss with a boy, disappearing overnight," she says. "All these memories of places that are meaningful, gone off the face of the earth. Losing family members, fathers, brothers, losing kids. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that."

So, Olga has opened her heart and her luxury Airbnb apartment in Bucharest, Romania to Ukrainian refugees. Olga is quick to point out, she is just one of millions reaching out.

"A very large number of Ukrainian refugees are crossing into Romania in the past few weeks," Olga says. "The amount of help, kindness and generosity is just moving. It's not just Romania, but the entire world that is stepping up."

Together, we called Anna Starenkova, who is staying in Olga's Bucharest apartment. Anna says she is blessed to have a place to stay.

"Olga is like an angel," she says. "I was really in shock!"

"At one point I told her 'bring in as many people as you feel comfortable with,'" Olga says.

But she downplays her generosity. Olga says her actions are just a part of her core values.

"Standing up for freedom and helping others," she says.

Perhaps one day those living in hell can once again find the joy and beauty in life's important moments. Scenes that Olga and her photographs capture so eloquently.

See more of Olga Thomas' work here.

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