Ukrainian families spend first Christmas in United States, resettling with sponsor in San Antonio

The Ilin family is spending the holidays together away from a war-torn Ukraine

SAN ANTONIO – From Ukraine to the United States, the Ilin family is together again.

After fleeing the war in Ukraine, Demetri Ilin is reunited with his extended family, including his brother Alexander.

“I’m more calm, because I am with my family,” Demetri told KSAT in an interview. “I talk to my friends (in Ukraine) and they tell me that still, every day, they are nervous.”

The families were reunited with the help of San Antonio man Stephen Dellwo, who is sponsoring them under the federal government’s Uniting for Ukraine program.

Dellow originally sponsored Alexander Ilin and his immediate family. Now, Dellwo has extended his sponsorship bringing in Alexander’s brother Demetri and his family. Dellwo helps both families full-time.

“I had to quit my job in order to do that but, it was small price to pay to get this done,” Dellwo said.

We first interviewed Dellwo during Thanksgiving.

At the time, Alexander and his family had just arrived in the U.S.

Now, Alexander is already making strides.

“I have a permit for work. I have the new apartment. I have a car,” he said during an interview.

On Christmas Eve, the newly formed family is spending their first Christmas in the U.S. together.

“This is by far going to be the most memorable Christmas I think I’ve ever spent in my life,” Dellwo said.

After the holidays, the Ilins plan to enroll their children into school, while Alexander and Demetri start job hunting.

Due to the language barrier between Dellwo and Ilin, the family uses Spanish as a common language to communicate.

As Dellwo helps the refugee family navigate the system, he’s learning how immigration works. He said he recognizes the disparities foreigners face migrating to the U.S.

“For thousands of these other people…they need people to step up and say, ‘I’ll take the responsibility of sponsoring these people,’” he said.

The Biden administration announced this year that the Department of Homeland Security will receive 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. However, it differs for other refugees fleeing violence in Middle Eastern and Latin American countries. That includes Venezuela, where DHS is only approving up to 24,000 refugees this year.

Related: San Antonio man sponsors Ukrainian family, attorney discusses immigration policies

If you’re interested in learning more about sponsorship for an immigration process, click here.


About the Authors:

Allysa Cole is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in September 2022. She previously worked in the Rio Grande Valley at KGBT, KRGV and Azteca Valle. She started her career at WHPM FOX23 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, after graduating from University of Southern Mississippi. Allysa is a Detroit native.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.