Rebuilding a life and a home in Birch Bay

Published on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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When the fire gutted her family’s three-bedroom home in Birch Bay last month, Tatiana Kondratyuk watched from the yard in disbelief.

Earlier that morning it was business as usual. Her husband Paul leaving for work, spending some time working on the family scrap book and taking her youngest daughter to the doctor. On the way back, she had stopped at her sister’s house to pick up her oldest daughter.

Then at 12:15, she got a phone call from her sister-in-law, Lana Pluschakov, who lives across the street.

“I turned around and looked at my sister and said, ‘my house is burning,’” she said. “ I don’t know how to describe it. I thought that was it, we’re done. When a person dies, you go to a funeral, you are told what to do. But when your home burns down, you don’t know what to do.”

Pluschakov had recently purchased her first car, a 1999 Toyota Solara at an auction and parked it in Kondratyuk’s driveway. It exploded in the fire.

The only item that survived the fire was the family scrapbook, which Kondratyuk had taken with her to show her sister.

The two were under a buyer-owner contract for the past three years for their 1,080-square foot home on Surf Place but when Paul returned to school last February the couple decided to cut back on their finances – including their homeowner’s insurance, which would have helped compensate their losses in the event of a fire.

“In our contract it was written we were supposed to have insurance, we always had it but then we cut back on all our finances to go to school and that was one of the things that went,” she said. “It wasn’t really smart.”

Kondratyuk, her husband Paul and their two children, Nellie, 2, and Emily, 1, are now scrambling to put their lives back in order.

Both are students at Whatcom Community College. Paul studies automotive technology and Tatiana is working to earn her medical billing specialist degree.

In the meantime, the couple and their two children are sharing a single room with her brother who also lives in Birch Bay.

They can’t afford to pay rent at another place because they are still paying on a 10-year contract with the home’s original owner.

“We either have to sell it or pay the remaining balance,” she said.

Selling, however, is not an option, she said.

“I love our community, it’s such a wonderful place,” she said. “All of our neighbors are so friendly. When you come out, everyone waves to you.”

Kondratyuk said they’ve already received generous donations of clothing items and bedding from local churches such as the Bay Community Church and also the Red Cross. The members of their own church, The Russian Slavic Gospel Church, also helped pitch in to remove the charred remains of their home from the property so they might be able to start fresh.

What they are looking for now is an affordable or donated manufactured home they can put on their property. Other items needed are a bedroom set, a vacuum, a high chair, bowls and a dryer.

“We want to send out a big thank you to everyone who has stepped up to help us,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see how people are coming together and trying to help us out.”

“We’re learning to be very thankful that everyone is safe. That nothing happened to us is something you don’t think about every day but when it comes to being that close, you start thinking about it. You live one day at a time and learn to appreciate what you have rather than looking back and think about what you did have. You have to focus on what you can get and look forward.”

The couple has set up a bank account at Wells Fargo for those interested in donating financially. To donate household items, call 360/927-7643.