ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Mariia Isaieva says she and her two young children had a good life in Kyiv, and a lot to look forward to.
“I had just gotten new job and a new CV [resume]. I was excited to jump right in, but obviously that didn’t happen. My children and I loved Kyiv and enjoyed our very interesting city,” Isaieva recalls to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
However, as the ever growing threat of Russia’s invasion inched nearer, she says they had to come to terms with the fact they needed to escape.
“It was really hard. I was packing my bags with my closed eyes, like what I’m doing, I’m not asking myself. I’m just packing,” she says.
Isaieva says she has family in New York, and she and her kids were able to fly out on one of the last planes to leave Ukraine in February. They entered the country using tourist visas, and it was certainly a big adjustment.
“It was very hard for me, but my children settle in much better than I could have. They are very intelligent and quick to new environment. They were able to start school almost as soon as we got here. I was worried about it, but they were not,” she says.
Even though they’re here now, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing. Isaieva says she’s had trouble applying for Temporary Protective Status.
“I need that so I can be allowed to work and have a social security number. It’s just wonderful that so many people helping me, but I would like to have my own income and to feel stability,” she says.
“The TPS was announced back during the first week of the war, and it’s just yesterday that Mariia was able to finally apply,” adds Anya Zaderej, a local school teacher and Isaieva’s sponsor.
Zaderej helped found a local committee helping connect Ukrainians with sponsors who can help them. While the US recently amended its TPS guidelines to now include any Ukrainian refugee arriving before April 11 and granting them protective status for at least 18 months, Zaderej says the process is still frustratingly slow.
“We who have family in Ukraine, you know they are being bombed every day, who have to hide, for us this process is just not fast enough,” she says.
“Dealing with the American Embassy in Europe, not getting responses fast enough, only automated emails and voice messages with no regular human beings on the other side, yes it is very frustrating,” she goes on to add.
She says others not so lucky as Isaieva have taken another route to get away from the warzone. One that threatens their safety in a different way.
“Unfortunately, there’s families who have to come through Mexico, and we know that is not the safest route for these families, but that is the only place where at this time, they can get the humanitarian parole,” Zaderej explains.
She says she and the other local community members can’t imagine giving up though, knowing how many people still need their help.
“I would much rather be in Ukraine. If I didn’t have two small children just like Mariia, I would be there. My life has turned upside down ever since the war has started, and to get through the day, I need to be doing something to feel connected,” Zaderej explains. “We see more support here on the ground around our community, that’s what I would say. We see more support with our friends, colleagues, neighbors — that’s where we get support.”
Mariia Isaieva says she’s grateful to everyone who’s supported her and people like her just trying to find a new place in the world.
“It’s like a miracle for me, because I have not expected support that much. That’s very uplifting for me,” she says. “It makes me think that’s what we’re put on Earth to do. To support each other and do kind things and spread love in the world.”
“The war has not been won yet. It is nowhere close to being over, so we don’t want to be forgotten. So please continue showing your support,” says Zaderej.