90-day program aims to connect Ukrainian refugees with services

The program helps Ukrainians in their new homes enroll in employment programs, and connect with housing, medical and other resources.

Thousands of Ukrainians have fled their homes during the war, making their way here to the United States.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started Uniting for Ukraine last April to help people seeking refuge.

“It was day on second March. It was day when we leave Kyiv and this place near our house,” Mariia Kovalenko said referring to a picture of a building in ruins.

“This photo, it is a house near our daycare,” Mariia Shvetsova said showing us a crumbled home near her four-year-old daughter Darina’s daycare.

Each photo shows the wreckage of nearly 365 days of the war in their home country.

“She knew people who lived in that house, little kids, adults, grandmas, clients, just regular people,” Olenka Bravo, a Ukrainian immigrant said translating for Shvetsova.

Both Shvetsova and Kovalenko left with their young children, looking for somewhere safe away from the Russian invasion.

Anastasiia Khymko came alone in September.

“It’s scary to be there in the shelter rockets just fly over your head. It’s scary. So it was very sad because I lost my job, my home, my friends, my family,” Khymko said.

Now they’re here through the Uniting for Ukraine program run by UCIS.

They’re referred to as humanitarian parolees and are allowed to stay in the U.S. for two years, but starting over in a new country is difficult.

“She’s not asking for money. And the other woman, they don’t ask for money, but they are asking for the opportunity to work here,” Bravo said.

Now a new 90-day program aims to help by connecting them with resources for housing, jobs, and benefits.

“It’s very important because like a lot of people saying that they come here and they don’t know even where to start,” Bravo said.

Several local organizations like Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Catholic Charities, and Refugee Services of Texas are helping people sign up for the program.

They’re encouraging people to do so immediately.

As for these three women, they’re praying they’ll have a safe country to go back to someday.

“I just every day pray that it should finish as soon as it’s possible. And I hope like this year, 2023, it should be the end,” Khymko

Friday will mark one year of this war, there are two rallies planned to honor the solemn anniversary.

The first is Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Military Plz. Klych, a non-profit supporting Ukrainians, is one of the organizing entities.

The second is Friday at the San Fernando Cathedral, 115 E Main Plz., at noon.

If you would like to donate or sell items to Ukrainians seeking refuge here in San Antonio, a Facebook page has been set up to facilitate that.

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About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.