Family of Ukrainian refugees make their way to Seattle through U.S. southern border

As peace talks remain stalled, many are still fleeing Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues wreaking havoc. One family fleeing the war-torn country crossed the southern border to get into the U.S. safely, before making their way up to Seattle. 

The decision to flee was difficult for Yakhimenko Oleksandr, his wife and four children, who traveled for 20 days before entering the U.S. through the Baja, California border.

"With no hope, with not knowing what tomorrow holds," Oleksandr said of coming to the U.S., with the help of an interpreter.

The Oleksandr family was in Boryspil when Russians bombed the Kiyv-Boryspil airport on Feb. 24.

"I lived my whole life there. It was not easy but for the sake of my children, for the future of my children, I had to make it happen," Oleksandr said.

The 41-year-old father packed up his family and started their journey, leaving everything behind. 

"To this day, the people we talk to… they're still in that condition, they still don't know if they'll wake up tomorrow," Oleksandr said.

Oleksandr said they drove from city to city looking for a way out; each passing day hearing the devastation hit closer to home.

The next attack -- the train station bombing in Kramatorsk where loved ones were volunteering.

"Several families with kids that were under fire as they were fleeing," Oleksandr said. "It’s very sad people are living in uncertainty, if that’s the right word, even."

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The family reached Europe, walking across the border to cross into Hungary, Romania, Poland, and then Germany.

"The kids we try to entertain along the way, so they are not fully realizing what happens," Oleksandr said.

Their 20-day journey was aided by free train rides to Spain and Madrid, where they caught a flight to Tijuana, Mexico. There, they claimed political asylum to get into the U.S.

"The fact that I left… it doesn't mean that my heart is not there," Oleksandr said. "I'm still having trouble sleeping because of what's going on in my country and my heart aches for my people and seeing what's going on over there."

The father says he strongly believes he can help make a difference here, but it’s his story that's inspiring local non-profits to step up.

Founder of I-Miracle Project, Serge Bagdasarov, has a shared connection with Ukrainians.

"As the Soviet was collapsing, we lost everything and fled with just three bags of clothing," Bagdasarov said. "I was that child that slept on the floor and I was the child that ran away from my home without knowing what tomorrow actually holds."

He’s partnered with Ukrainian Victoria Miroshnichenko, an EMT, on the ground to help care for Ukrainians.

"This war is unlike any other wars that we've seen in many, many years," Bagdasarov said. "There's illegal ammunition that's been used. She's talking about a lot of burned victims."

As stories of struggle continue to be shared, he’s doing his part – helping gather humanitarian aid and raising funds.

Yakimenko and his family are some of the many to have arrived in Western Washington in the last few weeks.  

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"He sees himself doing the work that he was doing there and being a part of his new communities and making an impact here," Bagdasarov helped translate.

While he and his family are here, he and countless others stand with Ukraine.

"Ukraine will survive, Ukraine will be up from its feet," Oleksandr said.

The non-profit has a few events scheduled. For more information, you can visit their website.

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