“It’s just a mess over there right now. And sitting here in the U.S. in the comfort of our homes, watching this on television and not knowing what the next move is you’re kind of sitting on pins and needles,” said Marie Slobidsky.
Napervillian from Ukraine
This is the reality many Americans who are from the Ukraine or have family in the country are going through at the moment. Naperville resident Marie Slobidsky has relatives there whom she checks in on every day.
Though she says they are “safe right now” in the western part of the country, that doesn’t mean the situation is completely peaceful. “Every now and then when they hear sirens go off they run for the bomb shelters and they just hope and pray that everything falls into place and Putin backs off and they can resume their lives,” said Slobidsky.
On February 24, Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine, marking an escalation from conflict that began in in 2014. The war has caused hundreds of civilian casualties and forced more than two million Ukrainians to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
As Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service has stated that any man ages 18 to 60 is not allowed to leave the country in case they need to be drafted into the army, Slobidsky’s cousin has chosen to stay with her grandson and son instead of seeking refuge in Poland.
She told Slobidsky, “we have the grandson and we have our son and if they have to stay here to fight the war, then we’re going to stay here. We’re not going to leave them behind,” said Slobidsky.
How Local Organizations are Helping
While Ukrainians are taking refuge in other European countries, that’s currently not an option in the U.S. Executive director of World Relief said since the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program is led by the government, the local organization is unable to help resettle refugees at the moment.
“What we usually see is that refugees aren’t resettled to a third country like the U.S.,” said Sperry. “When there’s conflict or persecution, people usually flee first to a neighboring country and the hope is that the situation resolves in their homeland so they can return home.”
She said the U.S. has limited resettlement spots open each year, and that the organization continues to advocate for providing more of those spots. Sperry said if the war between Ukraine and Russia continues long-term, she does believe the U.S. will begin to take in Ukrainian refugees.
Right now as a first response, World Relief has been working with partners in the countries who are currently taking in refugees to provide humanitarian aid.
Some organizations she said people can donate to include World Relief, the International Rescue Committee, Water Mission, Save the Children, and Mercy Corps to aid in these efforts. Sperry said people can also contact their representatives to encourage more aid.
The Biden administration announced on Thursday, March 3 it would provide temporary protected status for Ukrainians who have been living in the U.S. since March 1 or earlier. This enables those individuals to apply for work permits and remain in the country for 18 months. It also gives them deportation protections.
Locally, Naperville Neighbors United hosted a “Peace Vigil for Ukraine” on March 7 with local leaders, faith leaders, and Naperville families who currently have relatives in Ukraine.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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