Partner Family Spotlight
Veniamin and Nadezhda Kulish (they graciously offer ‘Ben’ and ‘Nadya’ as nicknames) fled religious persecution from the majority Orthodox Church in Ukraine when their oldest child was just six months old. "There were no good job positions for Baptists. If you were involved in the church, you could go to prison. My brother and his wife spent time in prison." Ben was a Hebrew and Old Testament professor, so they feared for their safety. They applied for refugee status and began their lives in the U.S. at the Hatfield Seminary in PA.
Those early years were lean. "We had 67 cents at one point," Ben says. Nadya recalls a desperate moment when she was expecting her second baby, and she didn't speak English. A member of the seminary brought food to the house. "God provided for us," she beams.
They moved to Goshen several years ago to support a small church group. Their Evangelical Slavic Baptist Church just bought a house to worship in, after renting from East Goshen Mennonite for several years. Nadya says, "I love it here. I have my church, my friends. It's like being in a little town in Ukraine. It's my place."
Now, Ben Jr. (19) and his sister Angelica (17) are entering their first year of studies at IUSB. Their siblings, Valentina (16), Rachel (15) attend Northridge High School. Mark (13), twins Samuel and David (12), Anna (10), and Timothy (7), attend Woodlawn Christian. Ben’s mother, Anna (84), moved in with them three years ago, after her husband passed and she became too ill to live alone.
Keeping time together sacred is a guiding principle for the Kulish family. Nadya recollects a family meeting to discuss whether Ben Sr. should take a job working 2nd shift. “It would have been more money,” says Nadya, “But we asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to sell Dad?’ and all the kids said, ‘No!’” Ben Sr.’s current job at Jomar Machining and Fabricating allows him that crucial family time in the evenings. The Kulishes appreciate the family feeling at Jomar.
They don’t have TV or internet at home, which encourages the children’s creativity. Ben Jr. told our Construction Manager that he not only knows Russian and English, but also studies Hebrew, Chinese, and Spanish! He also self-published a book called In the Empire of the Golden Dragon.
Music is also a favorite family activity, so the Kulishes have a regular family band! The children sing and play guitar, flute, and violin, among other instruments. Ben Sr. and Nadya saved and fundraised to send the oldest three children to a surely-unforgettable music camp in California last summer.
They are always looking for performance opportunities, and have offered to play at Habitat’s new home dedications. (And, like any modern family band, they can be found on YouTube.)
Habitat has developed a house plan that will accommodate the family, keeping long-term value in mind. Having two children already graduate from Northridge High School, Ben and Nadya feel strongly that Middlebury School system offers the programs they want for their children, especially in terms of music and foreign language. (Ben Sr. taught the children Chinese at home until they surpassed his skill.) That is why they plan for all of their children to attend Northridge High School in Middlebury.
Ben Sr. and Nadya will each contribute over 250 Sweat Equity hours as part of the program, and Ben Jr. will add 100 more. Nadya has been a frequent volunteer in the Habitat ReStore during the week, and the three of them often spend their Saturdays at the jobsite working toward this goal. They are thrilled to soon begin working on their own house. Ben Sr. and Nadya have attended Financial Peace University and other homeownership-related classes through Habitat, and they have already met their down payment and savings goals. Construction on their Middlebury home will begin late summer 2017.
The Kulish family is committed to each other, to Habitat, and to making their permanent home in Elkhart County!