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Park City business owner supports her family in Ukraine

Laura Safonova and family
Laura Safonova
Laura Safonova and family - Odessa, Ukraine

Ukrainian-born Laura Safonova Coleman worries for her family and friends who are still in the war-torn country. Many in the Park City community have shown their support.

Laura Safonova Coleman moved to the United States 27 years ago and has called Park City home since 2002. She opened her Kimball Junction clothing boutique, Safonova, in 2009 and has a loyal customer base that she calls friends.

Coleman considers Park City home, but says her heart and soul are still in Ukraine and she worries about her friends and family, especially her elderly parents. She talks to them regularly on video chat and says they are doing okay but are living in a world they don’t recognize.

“It's just hard and it's getting harder and harder to be away from the family and even harder to look at your parents’ eyes it's  through their eyes I see my life changed in a second even 100,000 miles away because they are reliving WWII to childhood and it's not supposed to be this way.”

Coleman grew up speaking Russian as well as Ukranian and has many Russian friends. She says this conflict is like a brother or sister turning around and declaring war for no reason, and the atrocities she sees coming out of Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, is heartbreaking.

“I'm trying to understand Russian right now. Because they started invading my country, like a military drill. They did not expect to go to war. Even military people did not expect that, you know, from the Russian side. But we'll look what happened in five weeks by now. Look what to what degree military are returned around raping innocent people. So I’m not trying to forgive.  I’m trying now to understand because they’ve been my brothers and sisters.”

Coleman says her customers heard about her family and started supporting her in ways she never imagined.

“So after my customers start coming into my store and supporting my business, and then some of my customers, my dear friends, start sending me checks. I will be honest, I never asked for help. We don't ask for help. We work hard. We support hard, you know, but they knew I will be overwhelmed. They knew they want to help too. They knew I don't need money personally. But I need desperately help.”

Her family is grateful for all the financial support, and Coleman says she’s able to help many more people with the generous donations made by her customers.

“And with this help, I start extending my arm to three of my mom's girlfriends. One has Parkinson sounds to me to another and they leave all by themselves because they're when the war started. The kids were far far far in Ukraine. They couldn't make it on time to save mom.”

Support comes in many different forms and Coleman said she feels the love every day. She shares even the smallest gestures with her family. It helps her sleep at night when she worries whether her parents, who live on the 7th floor of their apartment building in Odessa, will survive another day.

“I would stand in the store. And the man walking dog will come. Are you Laura? I just like yes. And he said can I just please give you a hug? Tell your parents thank you. And I will just like oh my god, what just happened? I just got to hug. And then guess what? When I will talk to my parents I will always say just how many hugs I received. I got 10 Hugs, two kisses, and flowers and they are just thankful.”

Coleman hopes she’ll get to hug her family again. But until that day comes, she wakes up knowing she has the support of her community.