Portland family hosts Ukrainian refugees, hoping to inspire others

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 6:59 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - It’s been almost a month since Tetiana Gusieva and her 11-year-old son, Alex left their lives in Kyiv to seek refuge in Oregon. Yet there are still horrible memories from the Russian invasion that followed them.

“There are a lot of airplanes, helicopters. Every time he hears these sounds, sounds of airplanes, he’s looking for, he’s afraid,” Tetiana Gusieva said.

They remember the night Russia invaded back in February.

“I heard this bombing, and I was trying to calm down and when I understood I had to do something, I woke up Alexander,” she said.

“It’s not a good moment,” Alex said.

They bounced between bomb shelters and friends’ homes in the following months with only a few suitcases in tow. Though Alex said he didn’t need much anyway.

“We all understood that we don’t have the time to panic, to crying, to be aggressive,” Alex said. “We must just pick up our items and our cat. At first, I think only of our cat. I don’t care about my items. I think only about my cat and my mom.”

Then June came and that’s when they got in touch with Portlanders Tanika Barsegian and her husband Raj Savara through a mutual friend.

Barsegian is from Russia and has organized rallies for Ukraine locally.

She and Savara began the process of getting Gusieva and Alex visas through the Uniting for Ukraine program, which allows Ukrainians to come to the U.S. with the support of a sponsor and sets them up with a social security number and state ID.

72,000 Ukrainians have come to the U.S. through this program since March.

“In a matter of three weeks, for them to get identified, say yes, we want to make this happen, buy airplane tickets, have airlines cancel, start over, and then get over here,” Savara said.

This year, Alex will start fifth grade in Clackamas and soon, he and his mom will move into an apartment. Though, they still miss home back in Kyiv.

“Sometimes miss the food,” Alex said.

“I miss my ordinary life. My ordinary style life because everything was ok,” Gusieva said.

Savara said he hopes more people will be inspired to sponsor Ukrainians coming to the U.S.

“It’s a benefit to everyone in our society and the world to put that effort out and I think that most Ukrainians are proud, hardworking and not looking for a handout,” he said.

If you’d like to help them get settled, you can donate to their GoFundMe.