Local Ukrainians improvise to bring family members to Los Angeles

Shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February, Lyubov in Lusov ran out of food at the local grocery store in Herdyska, a small town in the southeast where the 25th Airborne Brigade base is located.

Her daughter, Tatiana Tometzky, recounts what her mother told her on the phone that day.

Year-long visas allow a Ukrainian couple to find refuge in Los Angeles

“It was 7 in the morning, and then the first three bombs began to fall [on the base]”Said Tomiki, who lives in west Los Angeles.” The whole earth was shaking, and people were just like screaming and scared in the middle of the little market. “

As soon as she heard the news, Tomiki knew she had to do something.

“I called them and asked them, ‘When did your tourist visas expire?’ ” she said.

She obtained the visas for her parents as early as 2015 so that they could attend her wedding. Fortunately, she learned, the visas were still in effect.

Tomiki’s parents were reluctant to leave at first; They did not have a car. But she and her brother, who also lives in LA, persuaded them to leave. They took a taxi from Verdiyska to the nearby town, then boarded a crowded train to Poland, where foreigners picked them up.

After about a month there, her parents finally came to LAX last week.

“We are so lucky they had a visa,” Tomiki said, “because otherwise they would have had to sit and wait.”

“Not much training”

In late March, the Biden administration said this Will receive up to 100,000 displaced Ukrainians. But so far, no official process for their absorption has been announced.

The administration also said that there will be some Ukrainian citizens Entitled to temporary protected statusBut they must have been in the US as of March 1st.

In the absence of other options, A growing number of Ukrainians have chosen to travel to Mexico And were admitted to the United States in the framework Conditional humanitarian release.

Ukrainians enter California through Mexico

Meanwhile, local refugee resettlement agencies are waiting for details from the Foreign Ministry as they make calls from Ukrainian families seeking advice, including relatives of people who have crossed the border. So far, they have had limited information to provide, said Lillian Alba, vice president of immigration and refugee services at the International Institute of Los Angeles.

“Unfortunately, because not much was issued, not many instructions were given, we just provide very basic information,” Alba said, “collecting numbers, keeping a list of these families so that when we get guidance, we can get back to them.”

Some of the families who arrived as refugees may apply to bring their loved ones through The Lautenberg Plan, Which benefits with certain minorities in the former Soviet Union. But it’s a process that takes time, she said.

Cross the border

Early Wednesday morning, with two sleepy children in tow, Tatiana Dove crossed the entrance port from Tijuana to San Isidro.

Vasyl Dub, her husband, is an entrepreneur who runs a small technology startup. Until the war he divided his time between California, a stay in Los Angeles and the Palo Alto area, and their home outside Lvov in western Ukraine.

After the invasion began, Tatiana packed up the children, ages 5 and 10, and drove to the Polish border about 40 miles away. She said getting there took close to 24 hours, as long queues of cars filled the road.

Once in Poland, volunteers helped house them. Vasyl, who said he was in the US with a temporary business visa, tried to get them visit visas to join him. While he tried, without success, he got a tip.

“A friend of mine called me and said there was another way to get the family here earlier,” he said. “And that was the humanitarian liberation through Mexico.”

Ukrainian refugees await processing of their applications at Tijuana’s Unidad Deportiva Benito Juárez, along the U.S. border on April 9.

(Patrick T. Fallon

/

AFP via Getty Images)

Tatiana said she applied online for a visa to enter Mexico. She and the children flew from Warsaw to Barcelona, ​​where they stayed overnight, then to Mexico City, then to Tijuana.

At Tijuana Airport, some of the people met them Volunteers who helped the Ukrainians at the border. In recent weeks, a large network of volunteers, many churches on the U.S. side, has been working to provide transportation, food, shelter and other assistance.

‘When are we going to see Dad?’

“24 hours, they’re at the airport, they’re always ready to pick you up,” said Tatiana, who was deeply impressed by the support. “I really can not imagine how we are [could] Do it all without them. “

Tatiana described being taken to a “registration desk” after being released from customs. There someone wrote them down and gave them a number, what she was told was their turn in line. Then, she said, the volunteers gave them a ride to the Hotel Shusil found for them.

A donor arrived four days later. Around 4 a.m., Tatiana and the children took Uber to a pedestrian border crossing. Tatiana said during the journey, her children “Ask me every three meters, Mom, when, when are we going to see Dad?”

At the border it took about an hour until they underwent humanitarian release and confession.

Vasyl, who was driving from Palo Alto, was waiting on the other side. He saw the children waving at him from a distance of a few hundred meters.

“It was crazy,” Vasil said. “I was so excited.”

A family of four, from left to right: a smiling young boy, a man in sunglasses, a little girl and a woman with blond hair, with palm trees and blue sky in the background.

The Dov family after the meeting on the US-Mexico border, from left to right: Ivan, Vasyl, Veronica and Tatiana.

For now, they are staying with a host family in Palo Alto when they decide what to do and where to settle. Everyone can stay legally temporarily, but they will have to find ways to adjust their status to stay in the U.S. long-term if it turns out they can not go back.

As the war continued, Vasil said, “it’s hard to understand the whole picture and plan over time.”

“Very safe and very calm”

In west Los Angeles, Tatiana Tomiki’s parents are settling down. For now, they are staying with Tomiki, her husband and five-year-old daughter in their small apartment, sleeping in their granddaughter’s room.

Tomicki recently posted the explanation to Nextdoor which is looking for temporary housing for them, saying it was flooded with offers from potential hosts.

She is also considering sponsoring her parents for a green card.

“I told them they could still come back if they wanted to,” Tomiki said. “They can at least travel, you know, back and forth.”

When, or whether, they can do this is still an open question.

Speaking in the mother tongue of the Russian family, Tomiki asked her mother how she felt, now that she’s in Los Angeles she’s translating, her voice cracked a little, as her mother spoke.

“Very safe and very calm,” Tomiki said, adding, “and we’re about to start crying here, I have a feeling.”

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