Peacebuilding Leader Journeys from the USA to Ukraine to Reconnect with Family

Naomi MacMurdie
March 25, 2022

Yuliya Johnson started as a participant in a unique peacebuilding project before becoming an inspiring leader for building bridges in the diverse community of Billings, Montana. This project, the Cross Community Reconciliation (CCR) program, is a cross-cultural and community-based platform that applies Global Peace Foundation’s international peacebuilding strategies to build bridges across racial lines in a diverse region of Montana in the United States.

Now a facilitator for the second phase of the CCR project, Yuliya was unable to attend one of the first sessions because of the increasing conflict in Ukraine, which is still home to her parents. Suddenly, she was on her way to the airport, praying that she would be able to meet up with her mother in Europe and get her to safety before tensions escalated further.

We are happy to report Yuliya was safely reunited with her mother, who had experienced a heartbreaking journey herself to escape the warzone.

Yuliya’s mother had to leave all her possessions with the exception of her dog, some clothes, and essential documents to travel. Yuliya translated her mother’s experience in a Montana news interview. She mournfully recalled seeing bodies, Ukrainian and Russian alike, in the streets. She used the vest off her own back to cover a fallen Russian soldier saying she was only thinking of his mother.

“My mom say she felt like her life cut in two pieces,” said Yuliya, “Like something she used to know, what was before. It’s already completely new life and she doesn’t know what she’ll face in this life.”

Yuliya holding a sign

Yuliya Johnson at the “Pray for Ukraine” rally in Billings, Montana

Yuliya represents the courage, open-mindedness, and leadership qualities required to build peace and cooperation among people from diverse backgrounds. Other CCR participants—White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, and other ethnic backgrounds—only weeks into the program, illustrated the central understanding that humanity is truly one family when they sent messages of support and participated in a rally in the City of Billings “Pray for Ukraine,” standing by Yuliya to provide comfort and solidarity.

All people are One Family under God. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people of Ukraine.

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