Bay Area braces for influx of Ukrainian refugees as war escalates

The Biden administration announced Thursday the United States will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Local aid groups are already preparing for the influx.

Leonid Prusnyak, his wife, and three children fled Ukraine with a single suitcase. First they went to Romania, then to Mexico, and ultimately to California.

"It's a long journey, but I'm here, and I'm thanking god that I'm here," said Prusnyak.

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A journey made possible by Paul Chorney. Not only did he welcome the Prusnyaks into his Auburn home, he actually drove to the Mexican border to pick them up.

"And when I entered American soil, American land, there was a booth. You can enter the booth and say I have five refugees from Ukraine," Chorney said.

This is just the beginning. The Biden administration announced plans to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the U.S. And that has left Bay Area nonprofits, like the Ukranian American Coordinating Council, scrambling to prepare.

"We're assuming we're going to need help with housing. We're going to need help setting them up with medical care. We're going to need help figuring out where their children fit in schooling and how to help all those different things," said Oksana Tscherepenko-DiRicco with the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

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Nova Ukraine, another nonprofit, has a refugee task force. They've been working with law firms to arrange pro bono legal services, and they've established a partnership with Airbnb to help with temporary housing.

However, they say most of the people they've helped so far have either overstayed tourist visas or come to the Bay Area because they have relatives here.

"These are the people who had travel documents from before the war. And getting travel documents now in Europe, I heard the sign up in some of the consuls for Ukraine is for August," said Igor Markov with Nova Ukraine.

San Mateo County isn't sure how many total refugees might end up here. But county supervisors passed a resolution this week committing to help those who do. They hope to focus on everything from food to mental health services.

"You have to put your money where your mouth is. And so you have to stand up, and you have to say look we're going to welcome these refugees, and we're going to do it in San Mateo County," says David Canepa, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

There is still a lot more preparation to be done. Organizations are looking for volunteers, money and people willing to open their homes as needed.