HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — During his trip to meet with NATO allies, President Biden announced that the United States will provide more aid to Ukraine and will also accept refugees fleeing the war-torn nation.
Ukrainian-born Roman Avershyn and his wife, Mariia Kodola, are doing everything they can to help their home country from Falls Church, Virginia. The Ukrainian couple hails from the Cherkasy region in central Ukraine and both have family members still in the country.
Avershyn says he and his wife are lucky that they have been able to communicate with their family throughout the war but know that is not the case for other Ukrainian Americans. Avershyn says that while members of their families stayed in Ukraine to fight in the war, he and his wife are grateful the United States has opened its doors to refugees fleeing the war zone.
“It’s better than nothing but 100,000 is nothing compared to the entire population,” Avershyn said. “To accept kids and families in struggles. So that’s, of course, a much-appreciated move and it’s great to see that this is actually happening.”
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a local humanitarian and refugee organization, says they’ve only resettled 12 Ukrainian refugees in March. But President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah says the announcement from the Biden administration can’t be a symbolic gesture.
“It’s a critical signal of the U.S. showing global humanitarian leadership, it can’t just be a signal, it can’t just be a White House press release,” O’Mara Vignarajah said. “We need to see the substance of how the administration is going to address some of the bureaucratic backlogs that have beset the refugee and asylum systems.”
The Biden administration previously granted temporary protection status only to Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the United States before March 1st. However, some say the expansion to 100,000 refugees is still not enough. Hagerstown resident Lisa J. believes the United States is falling short when helping refugees in need. She says the U.S. should welcome at least 500,000 refugees. Janet Callahan, a fellow Hagerstown resident, echoed Lisa’s sentiments.
“I think there should be more help. I think our country is based on helping the underprivileged, the disadvantaged,” Callahan said. “It’s on the Statue of Liberty. These people need help.”
Avershyn fears that if the world leaders don’t take direct action against Putin, it will be too late to help Ukraine.
“We see that and we know that Putin will not stop on Ukraine. If he can’t be stopped now, he will go further.”Roman Avershyn, Ukrainian national
“I know that NATO and, of course, the U.S., in general, is afraid of third world war and nuclear weapons,” Avershyn said. “At some point, they need to make a decision: Do they want to prevent that, or do they want to actually react to that later on? And [to] react might be too late a little.”
The Biden administration has not yet explained how they will be processing Ukrainian refugees to get them into the United States.