Vadim Zalyashko remembers one act of kindness that changed his life forever.
After fleeing Ukraine in 1990, Zalyashko, then 5 years old, his parents and his six siblings made their way 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 run up and down the hall. The family did not yet speak English, and they rarely spoke to the man.
One day, the doorbell rang, and Zalyashko’s mother answered the door. It was the neighbor, gesturing for her to follow him. He walked outside to his car and opened its bulging trunk; a bounty of food and home supplies practically spilled out of it.
“For you,” he said, smiling. Overwhelmed with thankfulness, Zalyashko’s mother started to cry.
“That moment shaped me quite a bit,” Zalyashko said. “I don’t remember much from my childhood, but that is one of my brightest memories. Now, I feel I’m supposed to do that.”
He wants to pay that good deed forward and is using his business, Evergreen Denture Center; his church, Father’s House Church; and his family to support Ukrainians overseas and refugees arriving in the Northwest.
Zalyashko was born in Bohuslav, a city south of Kyiv, and he still has family living there. Every night, they fall asleep to the sounds of explosions, and Zalyashko fears for them every day.
Many of his patients at Evergreen Denture Center, 13720 N.E. 28th St., know he is from Ukraine and started asking him how they could offer support for the country.
When Russia first invaded, Zalyashko was doing everything he could to support Ukraine on his own, but after enough patients inquired about how to help, he realized he could use his business to provide additional support.
This month, he began donating proceeds from Evergreen Denture Center to Father’s House Church in central Vancouver, which sends financial aid directly to Ukrainian churches on the front lines. He also set out a donation bin at the front desk, which is doing well.
“Once somebody crosses your path in life that 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 nonperishable goods and toiletries to send to Ukraine. Some of his patients showed up with donations, along with many others, and the shipping container was filled in one day. Father’s House Church and Smirna Christian Church, also located in central Vancouver, covered the cost of shipping the container from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Eastern Europe.
Now, Zalyashko is working to assist refugees making their way to Clark County. His pastor at Father’s House Church connected him with a Ukrainian family en route to Vancouver, and Zalyashko is going to provide them with housing and support.
The family is comprised of a father, 27, mother, 26, and 2-year-old daughter. The mother is also pregnant. They fled the falling bombs in Kyiv, made their way 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 Wednesday.
“That could have been my family,” Zalyashko said. “That could have easily been us, running away from fire.”
He remembers when his family first arrived 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 by employing him at Evergreen Denture Center. The family has a special visa that allows them to work in the U.S.
“I’m ready to do whatever it takes to allow my wife to give birth on a soil that’s not being bombed,” the father told Zalyashko when they spoke on the phone Sunday.
As more Ukrainian families arrive in the Northwest, Zalyashko plans to support them in every way he can. His brother, Vyacheslav, also a denturist who operates Evergreen Denture Center’s Battle Ground location, is standing with him.
“This is not going to stop with just this family,” he said.
Seeing how Clark County has come together to offer support for Ukraine is Zalyashko’s biggest motivation.
“People are not staying on the sidelines,” he said.