Church offers driving lessons to Ukrainians

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 7:09 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Driving is so common in the U.S. that most of us don’t think about it all that much. In Europe, a lot of cities use public transportation, which is how a lot of people get around. For Ukrainians who are used to getting around without a car, getting around a city like Bismarck can be a hassle.

As of August, nearly 160 Ukrainians have come to Bismarck under the Uniting for Ukraine program. Amidst the need for food and shelter, it’s easy to let something as mundane as driving a car fly under the radar, but now that these immigrants are settling in, it’s becoming a problem.

Staff at Legacy UMC started offering driving lessons not too long ago to help these would-be drivers out.

“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.

Pastor Thrall said a lot of the Ukrainians he works with need rides from church members to get to work or to take their kids to school.

He started giving lessons to Tania Marchuk about a month ago, and he said she’s made a lot of progress since then.

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.”

Pastor Thrall said Ukrainians who want to learn how to drive need instructors who are patient and willing to use translation apps since a lot of them are still in the process of learning English.

It’s something that takes a lot of effort from both parties — courage to approach a stranger for help on one side, and the patience that’s required of an effective instructor on the other.

Drivers in North Dakota must have their permit for at least six months before taking their driving test.