Ukraine helped the US; When Ukrainian refugees Olesia and Serhii landed in the United States. They were surprise by two things: the warm welcome and the cobble expanse of the country’s largest mall. The Mall of America in Minnesota.
“It was an interesting experience! We liked what we saw,” Olesia told the AZ24 News through an interpreter. “But I can truly say that there are a lot of heartbroken people here, and it’s safe.”
The couple fled the city of Dnipro almost a year ago after Russia began. Its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Soon after, they traveled to Italy, where the couple. Their two young children took refuge in a dormitory with more than 100 other people. .
But in December, they became part of an estimated 109,000 refugees. Who found a new home in the United States through a government program called Uniting For Ukraine. Which allows Americans to sponsor Ukrainians to come to the United States for up to two years. As a result of the program, which is consider a huge success. The Biden administration announced similar measures against refugees from other countries.
Ukraine helped the US; Under Unite for Ukraine, donors are require to provide financial support for basic needs such as housing and health care, but participants and activists say the initiative has led to relationships between refugees and their sponsors that often go far beyond their original obligations.
“We hear regularly that it’s life-changing and a very powerful experience. It’s a very powerful gift of safety and security,” said Anya McMurray, president and chief operating officer of Welcome.Us, an online platform that connects sponsors and refugees. It is as transformative for the host as it is for the recipient,” he added. McMurray’s assessment was confirm by John Schrager, a Minnesota attorney who sponsore Olesia and Serhii along with several friends.
“It gave me a new Ukrainian Family,” Schrager said. “And – luck of the draw – I sponsored someone who is an amazing cook!” Another American sponsor, Alabama-based Kelly Wheeler, told the AZ24 News that what started as a small family effort to help a Ukrainian woman and her young son soon grew into a sprawling group effort involving many other people.
Together, Mrs. Wheeler and other residents of Madison were able to provide financial support, other donations, and even furniture until the refugees were settled.
“There has been so much support from our community, our church and the neighborhood,” she said. “You don’t do it alone… all it took was a little publicity and the news.”
I miss you at home
Ukraine helped the US; The woman Ms Wheeler is supporting. Viktoriia Kuznietsova, is originally from the occupied town of Melitopol in south-east Ukraine. Forced to abandon his legal career after the Russian invasion, he first fled to Israel and arrived in the United States in June. His little son, 7-year-old Artem, accompanied him.
In Alabama, she found a job as a cashier at a local supermarket.
“I really like it and it’s a new experience,” he added. “People are very friendly. They ask me where I’m from and about me and my country.”
Although she is now safe thousands of kilometers from Ukraine with her son, Ms Kuznetsova added that her thoughts keep returning to her homeland. Over the winter, she teamed up with other Russian and Ukrainian Speakers in Alabama to raise money for packages to help the war effort in Ukraine, where her brother is currently a soldier fighting on the front lines.
“I think a lot about my brother. He is in a dangerous area, in Donetsk,” he said. “I worry about the rest of my family all day. They are in an occupied zone.”
More to come
The success of Unity for Ukraine led to similar initiatives for refugees from other countries.
The Biden administration recently announced that sponsors could help bring in 30,000 people a month from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela for up to two years.
In January, the Biden administration launched a new program, the Welcome Corps, to mobilize 10,000 Americans to help 5,000 refugees from around the world come to the United States.
Building on previous programs for Ukrainians and Afghans, and a similar grant program in neighboring Canada that has served 368,000 people so far, Welcome Corps allows groups of five or more Americans to raise at least $2,375 in cash and in-kind donations. , which is then used to meet the initial needs of refugees until they find work.
Unlike previous programs, Welcome Corps allows approved refugees to join directly through sponsors, rather than through resettlement agencies.
“We’re excited,” McMurray told the AZ24 News. “We believe this is the right policy because it takes into account the will, desire and ability of the American people to accommodate them.
Unlike previous US programs, including the Uniting For Ukraine program, Welcome Corps provides a path to citizenship after five years.
Jocelyn Wyatt, director of Alight, a humanitarian organization that previously helped refugees match Americans, said the new program benefits both donors and refugees.
“It opens up so many opportunities for everyday Americans to be very generous, to be hospitable, to be able to provide support and a soft landing for those who come to this country,” he said.
However, Refugee Empowerment is not without its challenges. In addition to the additional financial burden on sponsors, there are cultural and language differences that can be overcome.
“It’s a tough lift, but it’s worth it,” Schrager said. “It’s great that I got the opportunity. But it’s not about me, it’s about them, and how great it is when people come together.”