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First 'Uniting for Ukraine' refugees arrive in San Diego County

First 'Uniting for Ukraine' refugees arrive in San Diego County
Posted at 5:27 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 20:49:28-04

ALPINE, Calif. (KGTV) — A month after border crossings for Ukrainian refugees were halted, the next group of refugees has begun arriving under the Uniting for Ukraine program.

In the months after the Russian invasion, Olena Bohurska and her parents lived in a state of constant fear.

They lived in apartments in the town of Fastiv, about 35 miles outside Kyiv.

"In and out of bomb shelters every day. Always tense. Never knowing what's coming,” said Bohurska.

Russian forces pushed toward their town, but were repelled. Air defense systems destroyed most but not all of the incoming Russian rockets.

During the war, Bohurska's father, Nickolas, 71, suffered a stroke.

“I was worried about his health. We knew we had to leave,” said Bohurska.

In mid-April, her sister, Alpine resident, Victoria Ivanova, made her way to Ukraine, and convinced their parents to leave.

She bought train and plane tickets to get to Tijuana, but in late April, the US stopped border crossings for Ukrainians, instead shifting to an online application system under the program Uniting for Ukraine.

“We were lost. We didn't know how long it was going to take,” said Bohurska.

Bohurska and her parents went to a refugee center in Poland and waited. Ivanova submitted their application, which included her being a sponsor. That included a background check and documents proving she could support them financially.

Advocates worried the process could take months. But in early May, only a week after submitting the application, Ivanova got confirmation. Her family had been approved to travel to the US and seek humanitarian parole for 2 years.

"Progress, of course, and relief. Excited! All of that,” said Ivanova.

On May 13, they landed at LAX, before arriving at Ivanova’s home in Alpine.

“Very grateful to be in a safe place. The war is like a bad dream, and I hope to wake up and find peace,” said Bohurska.

Two weeks ago, federal officials announced 6,000 Ukrainians had been approved to enter under the new program. Advocates say some 15,000 Ukrainians crossed through Tijuana and into San Diego.