SAN DIEGO – Amna Sanctuary, a grassroots organization in San Diego, held an outreach resource event on Friday to help Ukrainian refugees get connected with the resources they need. 385 people showed up to gain valuable information, as well as to share their stories of how they fled to the U.S.
“I’m still unable to watch my family photos because it brings flashbacks and tries to …I still have some panic attacks, and hard to sleep at night,” said Olga Ilinska, a Ukrainian refugee.
Ilinska fled Ukraine the day the war started on Feb. 24 with her two-and-a-half-year-old son in tow.
Ilinska described catching multiple rides from Romania to Hungary. From that point, it was a connection with an old schoolmate who lives in San Diego that finally got her to the U.S. on March 2.
“’Whenever you get to the safe place where the planes are flying, we will get you out of there,’” Illinska said that her old classmate told her.
The Ukrainian woman had to leave behind a mother battling cancer, as well as her elderly grandparents. Ilinska is a translator in Ukraine, and looks to resource events like the one Amna Sanctuary put on as a way to get back on her feet.
“I’m surrounded by the most beautiful people, enormous help, and that’s what keeps us going,” said Ilinska.
Sergii Ikunin, his wife, and three children left Ukraine about five months ago, but not before the violence started.
“Scary because we stayed in the basement, maybe one week. When we arrived to the train, the air attack, big explosion…three or five times,” explained Ikunin.
Ikunin’s family made the trek from Poland to Germany to the Netherlands, eventually ending up with a host family in Chula Vista. The father, Sergii, is a professional trainer with his own personal fitness school in Ukraine. Organizations like Amna Sanctuary, which provide a handful of resources all in one place, gives him hope.
“I think we can find normal life in San Diego,” Ikunin said.
The event brought community resources to refugees. In attendance was the San Diego County Health and Human Services, San Diego Unified School District, among others. People could get assistance with applying for MediCAL, CALFRESH. The DMV was there to help people get a California ID. Immigration lawyers were also on hand to answer questions.
“Within an hour, hour and a half, they can do all the services that would take them two and a half months, to get,” said Dr. Rasha Roshdy, the founder of nonprofit organization Amna Sanctuary that helps refugees.
The San Diego County Immigrant and Refugee director, Lucero Chavez Basilio, said “our first job as the city and the county that they are coming to for the first time in the united states is to be that example of what a welcoming environment can be.”
Palm Care Pharmacy was there to provide information. The CEO, Dr. Usama Alkazaki, said he can relate to refugees after he left Palestine for more freedom in the U.S.
“I like to help people who’s coming from the pain we lived, and try to make them feel better,” Alkazaki said.
Similar to how Alkazaki is making people feel better, Ilinska is lifting her mother’s spirits back home in Ukraine.
“We cheer each other up and stay positive. Keep thinking positive things, and hoping we might meet one day,” Ilinska said.