As war in Ukraine enters 2nd year, families find safety in Alaska

Ihor Melnyk and his family arrived in Alaska from Ukraine in June of 2022.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 6:02 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Catholic Social Services estimates more than 500 people from Ukraine have settled in Alaska since the invasion of their country began last February.

Mike Robbins works with the nonprofit Ukraine Relief Program which raises funds to help Ukrainians fly to Alaska. Robbins estimates the number is closer to 1,000 people. Robbins said some of them have come through their program, as well as through the Mexican border, independent sponsors, family and other means.

Anastasiia Heath is originally from Ukraine and works for Catholic Social Services assisting new arrivals in the Mat-Su Valley, where she says 200 Ukrainians have resettled. Many of her clients would like to stay, too.

“For a lot of people, there’s nowhere to return because their house is ruined and there is no jobs, no nothing,” she said. “They want to stay here if government will allow them.”

Right now, Ukrainians with sponsors are allowed to stay for at least two years. Ihor Melnyk, who’s family arrived from Ukraine in June of 2022, said there is lots of uncertainty for people who would like to make the U.S. their permanent home. He’s hopeful his family of seven can get green cards that will allow them to work and stay.

“We saw the miracle from God to be here, and we hope we will see another miracle [to] continue our staying here,” Melnyk said.

Robbins said the Ukraine Relief Program is always looking for Alaskans willing to sponsor Ukrainians or help out with time or other resources. Catholic Social Services also has volunteer opportunities for people interested in helping new arrivals from Ukraine.