Twice a refugee; a Ukrainian’s story of conflict and courage

Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 6:50 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have moved to the United States since the start of the Russian invasion. One 66-year-old man from Kiev recently arrived in Portland, which marked the second time he’s come to the U.S. as a refugee.

Peter Vins’ journey began in Ukraine six and a half months ago. He heard reports of an imminent invasion but didn’t believe them.

When the bombing began he, his wife and son left their Kiev apartment and headed for the Poland border. He said they spent days there without food or water waiting to cross the border. He made it to Oregon this summer and within weeks found a job at an Italian restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District.

His escape marks the second time he’s come to the United States as a refugee.

In the late 1970s he was beaten and jailed by the Soviet Union for his work as a human rights activist. His father and grandfather before him suffered similar fates. The elder Vins were Baptist ministers imprisoned for their religion.

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President Jimmy Carter came to Peter’s father Georgi Vin’s rescue. The president secured the release of the Vins family in exchange for two Soviet spies.

That’s when Peter first came to the U.S.

Peter eventually returned to Kiev, only to encounter hardship a second time as Russian soldiers invaded Ukraine in February.

“You know the harder it gets, the more adrenaline I have and the more desire to fight I have,” he said.

These days when he’s not waiting tables, he’s working with Ukrainian artists to fight Russia with art. They are distributing posters and t-shirts in support of the Ukrainian cause. He believes the Ukrainian people will prevail, pointing out that the war is nearing it’s two-hundredth day, while Russian soldiers had expected quick victory.

Peter has a brother here in Portland who is helping him get settled. He hopes the U.S. will open its doors to more refugees from Ukraine.