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Ukrainians In LA Frustrated Over Lack Of Resettlement Plans For Their Families

Left to right: A woman in a pink hooded jacket, a man with a beard wearing black, a toddler in a blue jacket and animal-face hat and a child in a yellow Pokemon beanie.
Serhii Dovhopolyi with his wife, Maryna, and their two sons, 2-year-old Daniel and 12-year-old Kyrylo. The photo was taken five days before the Russian invasion began; by then Dovhopolyi had returned to Los Angeles, where he works.
(Courtesy of Serhii Dovhopolyi)
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The announcement last week that the United States will take in up to 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s invasion filled Ukrainian immigrants in the Los Angeles area with hope.

Ukrainians In LA Frustrated Over Lack Of Resettlement Plans For Their Families

But more than a week later, they’re frustrated that there’s still no plan in place.

Serhii Dovhopolyi of Temple City said his wife and two children, along with some neighbors, fled their home in Kyiv for western Ukraine in the middle of the night, less than 24 hours after the invasion began.

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They’ve since made it to Slovakia, but Dovhopolyi, who’s lived and worked in L.A. County since last year, said he’s been looking into every possible way he can bring them here.

Encouraged by President Biden’s announcement about accepting so many Ukrainians, “I began to study this,” Dovhopolyi said. “And I was very disappointed when I realized that there is no program in the United States to relocate my family.”

The State Department told us in an email last week that the agency was looking into different avenues for displaced Ukrainians, and that more details would be shared at a later date.

“We are looking at the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, visas, humanitarian parole, and other means through which Ukrainians, especially those with family ties or particular protection needs, can come to the United States,” the email said.

As of Friday, the agency had no new information to share about how Ukrainians will be resettled. The Biden administration has also announced that it will grant Temporary Protected Status for 18 months to Ukrainians who are already in the U.S., but they need to have been present here as of March 1.

Dovhopolyi, who works for a binational electric bike company with staff in the U.S. and Ukraine, said his wife and children, who are 2 and 12, have made an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Austria next month. They’re not sure what the outcome will be.

He said he’s not sure why there’s still no formal process set up for Ukrainian refugees.

“My family is in Europe, they spent just a few hours to get a temporary protected status there,” he said. “I don’t know why it is so difficult to relocate them to the United States to get the same status here.”

Dovhopolyi said he’s aware that many Ukrainians have by now flown to Mexico in hopes of entering the U.S. at the border, but he doesn’t want to subject his family to that journey.

Vitalii Levadnyi of West Hollywood is also aware that Ukrainians are heading to Mexico. His parents, along with his sister and her two children, left their central Ukrainian city and have taken refuge in Latvia, although he’d rather bring them to stay with him here.

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A family, including two children, seated around a large table at a restaurant.
Vitalii Levadnyi (rear right wearing a black shirt with his arm around his mother), along with his father (rear left), his sister and her two children, having a meal together in Riga, Latvia. His family fled central Ukraine for Latvia; he recently returned from a trip there to help get them settled.
(Courtesy of Vitalii Levadniy)

“I'm in limbo,” he said. “I cannot make visas for my family. I don't want to move my family to Mexico to ask … about political asylum, because they don't want political asylum. They don't need it. They just need to get a safe place — to spend a few months here with me, you know?”

Levadnyi said he tried to bring his family here several years ago, but was unable to get them visas because, he was told, he’d once been temporarily without legal status after being scammed by an attorney he’d paid to adjust his status.

Levadnyi has since adjusted his status through marriage and will be able to sponsor his family in the future. He recently traveled to Latvia to help them get set up in a new place to live, along with his sister, who is on her own with her kids while her husband remains in Ukraine to fight. Levadnyi returned to L.A. just this week.

“I didn't have any time to wait,” he said. “So I found the safest way to move all my family to Latvia, because I couldn't move my family to the United States at the time. I couldn't say to my family, ‘Hey, let’s wait.’”

What questions do you have about immigration and emerging communities in LA?