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Church offers driving lessons to Ukrainians



Bismarck, North Dakota – In the United States, driving is so commonplace that most people don’t give it any thought. Public transit is a common means of mobility for many people in European cities. It can be difficult for Ukrainians accustomed to traveling without a car to navigate a metropolis the size of Bismarck.

Through the Uniting for Ukraine program, approximately 160 Ukrainians had arrived in Bismarck as of August. It is simple to overlook something as basic as driving a car when one is in desperate need of food and shelter, but as these immigrants settle in, it is starting to become an issue.

To assist these aspiring drivers, Legacy UMC staff members recently began providing driving lessons.

“The more independent they can be in driving, they can come to more events where they feel like they’re incorporated into our community, so they can feel involved in church and work and family and other events in town,” said Pastor Thrall.

According to Pastor Thrall, many of the Ukrainians he works with depend on churchgoers for rides to and from work and school.

Tania Marchuk began receiving lessons from him almost a month ago, and he said that since then, she has come a long way.

Translated into English, Marchuk said: “The lessons are very important for me because a car here is a means of transportation to work, to school and to stores. There isn’t a good public transportation system in Bismarck, so getting anywhere is a pain. And you’re in a closed circle, that’s why the lessons are very, very important for me and, I think, for other Ukrainians who live here and don’t know how to drive as well.”

Since many Ukrainians are still learning English, Pastor Thrall stated that those who wish to learn how to drive should find instructors who are patient and open to using translation applications.

It’s something that requires a lot of work from both sides—the patience needed from a skilled educator on the one hand, and the bravery to ask a stranger for assistance on the other.

Before taking the driving exam, drivers in North Dakota need to have their permit for at least six months.