Swampscott officer rides to help Ukrainian family

Student Resource Officer Brian Wilson (right), and Swampscott Police Sgt. Brendan Reen (left) give 10-year-old Michelle Kolomilchenko her new bicycle. (Swampscott Police Department)

SWAMPSCOTT — A Ukrainian family started its first school year in the country with new bicycles Wednesday, courtesy of Student Resource Officer Brian Wilson and his emotional-support K-9 Sora.

As students made their way to Swampscott Middle School Wednesday morning, Michelle Kolomiychenko, 10, showed up to her first day of school in the United States soaking wet from the rain with a pain in her legs.

Kolomiychenko’s father Yevhen, her sister, Rosaliia, and her mother Kateryna Havrylenko fled their home in Ukraine when Russian forces first invaded in the winter of 2022. After a 16-month stay in Switzerland, the family was sponsored to move to the United States.

Last month, the family settled in Swampscott. Without a car, bicycles, or a nearby bus stop, Kolomiychenko, who has knee problems, walked to school in the rain. Swampscott Middle School principal Jason Calichman sent an email to district employees explaining the family’s situation and asking if anyone had a used bicycle they would be willing to donate.

He wrote that Kolomilchenko, who is in fifth grade, “showed up on her first day soaking wet and in pain.”

“It was an emotional morning for her, and we wanted to ease the stress,” he added.

After reading the email from his office in Swampscott High School, Wilson drove to the Walmart in Salem to do some shopping.

“I saw the opportunity to help, so I took it,” Wilson said. “(The email) tugged on my heartstrings — when you have the opportunity to do something good for someone, you just do it.”

Using funds from the Swampscott Police K-9 Foundation Inc., a nonprofit account set up to assist with the care of Wilson’s K-9 Sora, the officer purchased three bicycles — two adult-sized and one youth-sized — and a Razor scooter for Rosaliia, 7, along with four helmets and three bicycle locks.

That afternoon, Wilson and Sgt. Brendan Reen, with Sora by their side, met the family and gave them their two-wheeled rides.

“The mother was in tears … and the 10-year-old girl didn’t believe it was really for her. She said, repeatedly, ‘That’s not really mine.’ Having daughters of my own, it was a good feeling,” Wilson said. “The father was obviously very grateful and the little one was very excited when she saw the scooter.”

Yevhen said he was incredibly grateful to Wilson, Calichman, and Assistant Vice Principal Emily Zotto for their help and generosity. The gifts, he said, would help make the family’s new life in the United States “much brighter.”

As war continues to devastate Ukrainian cities and towns, Yevhen said he hoped to pay Wilson’s deed forward. He said he planned to start a supply drive to donate food, medical supplies, and other needed goods to Ukraine.

“We are lucky enough to be here and to be as far away from the war as possible, but there are still people there who also need much more help than we do. They don’t have the opportunity to leave their homes to move to another country to try to save their kids,” Yevhen said. “We hope to help our people there as soon as possible.”

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