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Ukrainian refugees reflect, give thanks on Thanksgiving holiday in SD County

Ukrainian refugees in reflect, give thanks on Thanksgiving holiday in San Diego County
Posted at 3:11 PM, Nov 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-24 18:12:15-05

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - Ukrainian refugees in San Diego County are celebrating Thanksgiving on this day, which also marks the 9-month anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It's late morning, and the turkey is getting smoked at the Chula Vista home of Army veteran Spencer Cash. His thanksgiving this year is an expanded version.

“Five new family members, so to say. It’s been very special to be able to help them,” said Cash.

Since April, Cash has been hosting the Iakunin family, after they made a harrowing escape from Kyiv, eventually crossing into San Diego, and being granted humanitarian parole.

“I found lots of friends and school, and I like it,” said Mark Iakunin, 8.

Seven months later, Mark, dad Sergey, and the rest of the family are, for the first time, celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

“I am thankful that my family is safe,” said Sergey Iakunin.

Sergey says he's also thankful he could soon start working. In the next few weeks, his work permit application could be processed. He hopes to work as a sailing instructor or fitness coach.

“So excited to know, just imagine how I work here … to get to normal life,” said Sergey.

Although they are grateful, the worries remain. Sergey's mother remains in Kyiv.

“She feel real bad. Always nervous, worries. Can’t sleep,” said Sergey.

Sergey is now raising money in hopes of bringing her to Chula Vista under the ‘Uniting for Ukraine’ program.

As the Iakunins wait to be reunited, they gather for a holiday and give thanks.

“Grateful we can start new life,” said Sergey.