Vadim Zalyashko recalls an act of kindness that changed his life forever.
After fleeing Ukraine in 1990, then 5-year-old Zalyashko, his parents and six siblings traveled to Vancouver, where they settled into a two-bedroom apartment near Fisher’s Landing.
An older man who lived across the hall used to watch the seven Zalyashko siblings running down the hall. The family did not yet speak English and rarely spoke to the man.
One day the doorbell rang and Zalyashko’s mother answered the door. It was the neighbor, beckoning him to follow. He got out to his car and opened its bulging trunk; an abundance of food and household supplies practically poured out.
“For you,” he said, smiling. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Zalyashko’s mother began to cry.
“That moment shaped me a lot,” Zalyashko said. “I don’t remember much from my childhood, but it’s one of my best memories. Now I feel like I’m supposed to.
He wants to pay for this good deed and uses his company, Evergreen Denture Center; his church, Father’s House Church; and his family to support Ukrainians abroad and refugees arriving in the Northwest.
Zalyashko was born in Bohuslav, a town south of kyiv, and his family still lives there. Every night they fall asleep to the sound of explosions and Zalyashko fears for them every day.
Many of his patients at Evergreen Denture Center, 13720 NE 28th St., know he is from Ukraine and have started asking him how they could support the country.
When Russia first invaded, Zalyashko was doing all he could to support Ukraine on his own, but after enough patients inquired about how to help, he realized he could use his company to provide additional support.
This month, he began donating proceeds from the Evergreen Denture Center to Father’s House Church in downtown Vancouver, which sends financial aid directly to frontline Ukrainian churches. He also installed a donation bin at the reception, which works well.
“Once someone crosses your path in life who is in need, your job is to respond,” he said.
In addition to providing financial support, Zalyashko also worked with the church to stock a shipping container with non-perishable goods and toiletries to send to Ukraine. Some of his patients showed up with donations, as well as many others, and the shipping container was filled within a day. Father’s House Church and Smirna Christian Church, also located in downtown Vancouver, covered the cost of shipping the container from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Eastern Europe.
Now Zalyashko is working to help refugees get to Clark County. His pastor at Father’s House Church put him in touch with a Ukrainian family en route to Vancouver, and Zalyashko will provide them with housing and support.
The family is made up of a 27-year-old father, a 26-year-old mother and a 2-year-old daughter. The mother is also pregnant. They fled bombs falling in kyiv, traveled to Poland and are now in Germany awaiting a flight to the United States.
Zalyashko owns a duplex in West Vancouver, and he and members of his church are working to furnish it before the family arrives on Wednesday.
“It could have been my family,” Zalyashko said. “It could easily have been us, running from the fire.”
He remembers his family’s arrival in Vancouver and how acts of kindness made them feel at home. He wants to help the family navigate their new life. He wants to help the father find a job, potentially employing him at the Evergreen Denture Center. The family has a special visa that allows them to work in the United States
“I am ready to do whatever it takes to allow my wife to give birth on land that is not bombed,” the father told Zalyashko when they spoke on the phone on Sunday.
As more Ukrainian families arrive in the Northwest, Zalyashko plans to support them in any way possible. His brother, Vyacheslav, also a denturist who operates the Battle Ground site of the Evergreen Denture Center, stands by his side.
“It’s not going to stop at this one family,” he said.
Seeing how Clark County has come together to offer support for Ukraine is Zalyashko’s biggest motivation.
“People don’t sit on the sidelines,” he said.