Ukrainian refugees in Oregon share story of escape from war-torn Mariupol

HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. — A Ukrainian family in Happy Valley is taking in extended family members fleeing their war-torn home country. Ivan and Iryna are the latest to arrive.

Viktoriia in Happy Valley moved with her husband to the United States about five years ago.

She has seven siblings still in Ukraine, and he has ten. Ivan, his eleventh sibling, arrived in Oregon in April with Iryna, his wife.

Ivan and Iryna spoke with KGW Sunday through a friend who translated.

“Everything you see on the news … is reality,” Ivan said.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine and war broke out, the couple had just bought their first home in Mariupol. That home is now destroyed.

The situation in Ukraine remains dire. Many people are cut off from consistent food and clean water as cities burn and crumble at the hands of Russian troops.

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For Iryna, the memories prior to her escape are raw.

“Every time the shootings happened … or the bombing happened … we gathered in our rooms … we didn’t know how much more time we have,” Iryna said through tears.

Iryna is expecting her first baby in September, which will be born into a foreign country and culture.

“Just so amazed how the people are so kind and caring around here,” she said of Oregon. “Even [my] niece and nephew’s school offered gift cards and cards.”

Ivan is an electrical engineer and Iryna is a school teacher and choir director. The family has a GoFundMe page to support the couple as they push for work authorization.

Viktoriia said it is too expensive to bring more extended family to safety in the U.S., especially since it takes months for refugees to receive work authorization to help support themselves in Oregon.

“Very scary,” she said. “We are worried about them.”

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