Big Home, Bigger Heart

Northeast Ohio widow to help refugee family fleeing Kharkiv

WESTLAKE — From mother to empty nester to widow, Cathy Tasse has had a fantastic life and great memories. Many of those memories are pleasant. Now she’s taking steps to both change lives and make new memories by using her resources to help out a family in desperate need – one from Ukraine.

Cathy married Jeffrey Tasse in 1980, and the couple moved to Cleveland. They chose to buy a house and raise their family in Westlake, home for them for the past 21 years. But Jeff was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007. “He had chemotherapy, radiation, multiple surgeries, basically every therapy there was,” Cathy recalls. “Jeff’s life expectancy was about five years, but he lived with cancer for 15 more wonderful years.”

In that time, Cathy and Jeff raised two children, now grown and on their own. They had seen and done a lot in their 42 years together. But nothing had prepared them for what they witnessed on their television in February-March 2022, Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

“When my husband and I were watching the TV news of the war, we were horrified at the violence, and we were really impressed with the bravery of the Ukrainians,” Cathy recalls. “My husband was half Ukrainian, and this was the first time he really learned about and talked about Ukraine with me.”

One day she saw news video of hundreds of strollers lined up at a train station in Poland, awaiting refugee families with infants. “I thought to myself that, if I were there, I would hope to help in some way too.”


Jeff and Cathy have had caring hearts for a long time. One of the places they volunteered was at the Hope Center on Cleveland’s West Side, the refugee assistance facility of the non-profit group Building Hope in the City. “We taught citizenship classes via Zoom for refugees at the Hope Center, and Jeff really enjoyed that,” Cathy says.

Jeff and Cathy talked about possibly hosting a refugee family from Ukraine. “But we really couldn’t do it while he needed care,” Cathy explains. “The Hope Center wasn’t seeing refugees yet from Ukraine either.”

Cathy and Jeff Tasse

So Cathy just put that thought away, and continued to care for Jeff as he approached his final days. After his death this past fall though, she decided to act.

“I began with Google,” she muses. “I typed in ‘where are the Ukrainians coming to Cleveland?’ in the search engine. I eventually got connected with Global Cleveland,” Cathy says. “But at that time, they didn’t have any resources set up yet for assistance arriving Ukrainians.”

Next Cathy went to social media. She connected with a friend online who attends Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC) in Broadview Heights. CVC has been assisting a neighbor church, Slavic Full Gospel (SFG) Church, ever since the Russian invasion began.

“I begin talking with people, and eventually I was connected with a deacon at SFG Church, Roman Skalsky,” Cathy says.  “Turns out that SFG is comprised of about 90 percent Americans who came to the U.S. from Ukraine, and this church has been on the front lines to help the people of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last February.”


Enter the Malieiev family. A mom and dad with two children, they had a home and a good life in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people (Ukraine’s second largest). Then the Russia invasion devastated that city and all its people. Only 25 miles from the border with Russia, Kharkiv was overtaken and suffered greatly at the hands of Russian occupiers for several weeks.

The Malieiev family escaped from their home the first day of the fighting, and it’s fortunate that they did. Russian bombs and missiles, intentionally targeting civilian areas, flattened their home and virtually every home and structure on the block they lived on in Kharkiv.

“This family was fortunate to escape with their lives,” Skalsky says. “Others in Kharkiv have not been so lucky.”

The global non-governmental organization Amnesty International concurs with Skalsky. It investigated Russia’s brutality in the Kharkiv area, and describes it as war crimes.

“The people of Kharkiv have faced a relentless barrage of indiscriminate attacks in recent months, which killed and injured hundreds of civilians,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, last summer. 

“People have been killed in their homes and in the streets, in playgrounds and in cemeteries, while queueing for humanitarian aid, or shopping for food and medicine. 

The Malieiev Family (L to R): Volodymyr, Oleksandra, Platon and Emma

“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking, and a further indication of utter disregard for civilian lives,” Rovera adds. “The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable for their actions, and victims and their families must receive full reparations.”

The Malieievs fled west, first to Lviv in Western Ukraine. Eventually they were granted Temporary Protected Status by the U.S. State Department, and they traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, to await a sponsor family in the United States. And they have waited there for more than two months.

Volodymyr Malieiev worked as a company driver, and before that he was once a factory manager, both in Kharkiv. His wife Oleksandra was an accountant there. They have two children, Emma age 14, and Platon age 9.

At the very beginning of February, the State Dept. approved Roman and Diana Skalsky’s application to serve as sponsors for the Malieiev family. Roman will be going to New York City to greet the family at JFK Airport when they arrive in the U.S. from Germany, on February 23.  The next day, he’ll bring the Malieievs to Cathy Tasse’s home, where they will stay for their first several months in Northeast Ohio.


So on February 24, precisely one year after Russia began its efforts to conquer and eradicate Ukraine, the Malieiev family will be safely away from the horrors or war when they begin living in the Tasse family home on Jefferson Way in Westlake.

Cathy Tasse believes she can help bring about a story with a happy ending for the Malieievs. She has been communicating with them via a social media application called Viber, a phone and messaging app with more than a billion users worldwide. It’s an app Ukrainians favor because it’s both free and secure.

“I’ve gotten to know this family via Viber, and they are just a joy. They are learning English, and beginning to learn about Cleveland too in our talks. I’m so looking forward to providing my home and my help to them as they seek refuge in Northeast Ohio,” Tasse says. 

“This is an ‘everybody wins’ situation from my perspective,” she adds. “I am alone in a big house, and am an empty nester. I love my place in Westlake, and I certainly don’t plan to sell it anytime soon, but space in the home is going unused.

“Helping bring the Malieievs to safety here is good for them, and it’ll be good for me, and it’ll also be good for the house to be used this way,” she explains. “It’s going to be a blessing for both them and for me. 

“I know this is something Jeff would have wanted me to do too.”


Members of SFG Church have assisted 100+ Ukrainian refugee families thus far, and will continue to help newly-arriving Ukrainians both financially, and through offering Tuesday night ESL classes at the church in Broadview Heights. 

If you want to support their efforts financially, here’s a link: Just click on “Aid to Ukraine” and 100 percent of the funds donated will go to Ukraine relief.

If you can help teach ESL to Ukrainians, or have the ability to house refugees, or have an used car which can bless a refugee family, you can contact Roman Skalsky directly via email at:

Housing continues to be a critical need for refugees. The non-profit Rise in Love Center (based in North Royalton) has paid up to a year’s rent for some Ukrainian refugee families. You can learn about this group and support their work by clicking here:

To read this in Ukrainian, click here:

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