Oksana Potozka with her children and grandchildren in the home she rents in Ooltewah, Tenn. Pictured from right to left, Oksansa Potozka, her son Nick, daughter Rosita and son-in-law Mark, her son-in-law Andrew, grandsons Jacob and Noah, daughter Lily, granddaughter Emma, daughter-in-law Allah, granddaughter Ava, sons Archie and Ross, and daughter-in-law Julia.

How to donate

Call 423-757-6208 to make a tax-deductible donation, clip the coupon with this story and mail it with your check or go to

When Oksana Potozka fled from Ukraine in 1989 she thought she would be safe in America and she could start a new life with her family.

She said her husband had always been verbally abusive, but after their five children grew up and moved out the abuse became physical.

Last year, Potozka realized she was not safe in their home, so she left. Potozka is a certified interpreter and had a job working over the phone for a company in Houston, but when she lost her house, she also lost her phone.

"Then I lost my job," she said.

She spent some time homeless in the streets before landing at a local shelter. Eventually she obtained a divorce, moved into a rented house and began working part-time at her church.

Last month, though, she didn't have enough money to pay her rent.

Potozka was directed to Metropolitan Ministries, which worked with her and the Neediest Cases Fund to cover her November rent so she can start fresh on payments this month.

The Neediest Cases Fund has been sponsored by the Times Free Press for the past 100 years, and is a fund designed to help families and individuals who are not eligible for most other types of assistance regain stability.

Anna Katharine Horne, stability navigator at Metropolitan Ministries, said it was encouraging to work with Potozka because of how willing she is to work and her desire to be self-sufficient.

"I was impressed that she was still moving forward after everything she has been through, and we wanted to do the most we could to help her continue," Horne said.

Despite her setbacks, Potozka remains hopeful.

"I am just so blessed," she said. "Life has been hard ... but I am not scared anymore."

Eventually, she wants to write a book.

"I want young girls and women to know my story," she said. "I want all women to have a lovely and blessed marriage ... not to be hurt."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at or at 423-757-6592.