For Ukrainian-born Kateryna Adamkovych, the joy of welcoming her parents for a visit to her Chicago home was short-lived. Days after their arrival, Russia invaded their home nation and the reunion was overshadowed by fears about their eventual return.
“They are here for a few weeks only” and need to return, said Adamkovych, a Compass real estate broker. She’s among 54,000 Ukrainian-Americans in Chicago and more than 200,000 in Illinois.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is reverberating across the city and state, disrupting the day-to-day business of workers such as Adamkovych and Ivan Yuspyuk, another Ukrainian-born broker who works at the 24 Hour Real Estate office, steps from Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood.
Yuspyuk, who moved with his family to the U.S. 20 years ago at the age of 13, said Chicago clients of Ukrainian descent are caught in a terrifying limbo while the war rages. A week ago they were happily house-hunting. Now, flipping through Zillow listings is the last thing on their minds – they’re focused on getting friends and relatives to safety.
“Lots of the people in and near Ukrainian Village are first- and second-generation U.S. residents,” Yuspyuk said. “They all have family, cousins, brothers, sisters and grandparents back home. They’re trying to send any help they can.”
Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne designated Ukrainian Village an official neighborhood in 1983, the first such designation in Chicago. Fewer Ukrainian- Americans live in the area now, although it’s still a Ukrainian cultural hub, home to churches, restaurants, the Ukrainian Cultural Center, and the Ukrainian National Museum.
Yuspyuk and other Chicago real estate agents say people fleeing Ukraine for the U.S. may aim to settle in Ukrainian Village as it offers the most familiarity of almost anywhere else in the nation.
“People speak the language,” Yuspyuk said. “You can get Ukrainian food. It’s always been that comfort zone when you come to a new country.”
The median price of 28 homes sold in the Ukrainian Village last month was $498,000, up almost 25 percent from January 2017’s $403,000, according to Redfin.
Suburban communities like Palatine and Bloomingdale have also developed large Ukrainian communities as the diaspora has spread from the city, Yuspyuk said.
Ukrainian Village was initially developed by German immigrants after the fire of 1871. Bound by Damen, Chicago and Western Avenues and Division Street, the 160-acre area had an influx of Russian and Ukrainian immigration starting in the 1880s. Ukrainian Village began as a predominantly working-class neighborhood, and many of its first residents were craftsmen, according to the Chicago Historical Society.
“In Illinois we are ready to accept refugees in every home of Ukrainians,” said Maria Klimchak, a curator at the Ukrainian National Museum. “This is not a problem.”
Brokers in the neighborhood anticipate an influx of Ukrainians once they can emigrate and join family members.
“We have not yet started to see that trickle-in happen yet,” said Mike Samm, who runs a team of brokers for Keller Williams in West Town, which includes Ukranian Village. “I fully expect that we will. We as a company, my team in particular, have multiple Ukrainian clients. Everybody has completely banded together, donating money, donating time, sharing information and attending rallies in support of Ukraine. The communication is hyper in a positive way.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker attended a rally Sunday in support of Ukraine hosted by Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, in the 700 block of North Oakley Boulevard in the Ukrainian Village.
While Adamkovych, the Compass broker, worries about her parents’ return and family and friends in harm’s way in Ukraine, she also is cheering Ukrainian fighters as they stand up to massed Russian forces.
“We are all super-impressed, and very, very proud,” Adamkovych said.