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Billings man reunites with Ukranian refugee brother

Yuri and Volodymyr.jpg
Posted at 8:46 AM, Oct 13, 2022

BILLINGS - A very special reunion that two brothers will cherish forever.

Volodymyr Pronin became what the family believes is the first Ukrainian man to arrive in Billings after escaping the war.

While many have been forced to stay in the country to fight, he is now safe and will live with his brother in Billings.

A Billings man last saw his brother 30 years ago when he left Ukraine.

Their mother had a dream that they reunite, and that happened on Tuesday night when they welcomed the brother at Billings Logan International Airport.

Yuri Abramov had been dreaming of this day for years.

He last saw his brother Volodymyr 30 years ago, and now with war raging in Ukraine he wasn't sure if he'd ever see him again.

"I pray all the time," Abramov said. "And my brother prayed and probably somebody above can hear us. Finally it's happened."

This is an embrace they'll never forget and it's the first time the brothers hugged in decades.

Yuri his wife Cristin and their friends all welcomed Pronin to America.

"It was a big surprise for him that many people worry about him and support, give him warm hugs," said Abramov, who translated for his brother. "Open arms and say welcome to Billings, Montana. Now it's your home."

It's believed that Pronin is the first adult man to make it safely to Montana since many men were required to stay and fight.

Abramov had been monitoring Pronin's progress in safely leaving Ukraine earlier this year.

Pronin's family left Ukraine and he was held at the border.

But he had a doctor's note stating he could not serve in the army.

"Borter Partrol check one more time," Abramov said. "And he said, 'Why you didn't show before?' He opened the gates and my brother drove his car and crossed Romanian border."

He says the American government helps Ukrainian refugees.

"It was very dangerous situation," Abramov said.

Abramov has been in the United States since 1994 and coached his Great Falls soccer team in the Big Sky State game several times.

Shortly after the 2004 games, he was granted asylum and eventually became a U.S. citizen.

"I had very good attorney, Keith Tokerud from Great Falls," Abramov said. "All those years, he helped me."

Some of Pronin's family is in Maryland, but he will stay in Billings and fulfill a request their mother made to them before Yuri came to the United States.

"Brother, it's forever," Abramov said. "Most important because our mom said I want that my sons live together and help each other. So it happened. Our dream come true."