Kristina Mikhaylyuk holds two things dear: family and the importance of sticking together during difficult times. In the 1990s, Mikhaylyuk’s family left Ukraine and faced the challenges of acclimating to a new country as immigrants. So, when the news of the recent armed conflict broke in Ukraine, the Rising Phoenix Holdings Corporation Travel Expense Coordinator knew she had to help.
“It is unsafe to stay in the cities. Most Ukrainians are left with no other choice but to leave the country,” said Mikhaylyuk. “Many of them have left family members behind because they can’t escape. People have had to leave everything they know and make their way to a foreign country in hopes of finding refuge.”
Mikhaylyuk, with family still in Ukraine, searched for ways to help. The Utica resident attended a missions’ conference and learned about United with Ukraine. This national initiative provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members to come to the U.S. for a two-year parole period. Parole allows an individual admission into the United States for a temporary period for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
“I felt a calling to go, and two weeks later, I found myself on a flight to San Ysidro, California,” explained Mikhaylyuk. Mikhaylyuk and the team greeted the refugees with a smile, a warm meal, and Wi-Fi at the hub. They coordinated overnight arrangements for Ukrainians to stay in churches, hotels, or with host families while they booked flights to their final destination in the U.S., and transportation to the airport.
“My family couldn’t have made it in the States without the support of the local community and church years ago, said Mikhaylyuk. “It is only right that I do the same and give support.”
Since the trip to California, Mikhaylyuk and her team of volunteers have decided to stay closer to home. They are now collaborating with NY20 Project, aiding incoming Ukrainian families relocating to upstate New York.