Uniting for the Yerchovs

When Russia invaded Ukraine in March of 2022, Natasha Novoradovskaya, a San Diego resident with family in Ukraine, could think of only one thing: the eyes of her niece, Masha.

“When the bombing started, each night [my family] had to go to the basement of their five-story building to the very cold basement and sit there for hours,” Novoradovskaya said. “I remember the photo that Marina sent me of Masha with very scared eyes, very cold in all winter clothes. It was so sad to see them like this. So we had to figure out a way to take them out of there from this nightmare.” 

When Novoradovskaya received the heartbreaking image of her family members hiding in the basement of their home in Ukraine, she felt the overwhelming need to get her family to safety. The Yershov family began working with their relative, Novoradovskaya and the program Uniting for Ukraine, to get the Yershovs out of Ukraine and to safety in the U.S. as quickly as possible. The program, created on April 21, 2022 by the Biden administration, provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens to stay temporarily in the United States, given that they have a sponsor in the United States. 

“There was no way for them to come until the Uniting for Ukraine program started to work. As soon as the program started to work I needed to be cleared for sponsorship.” Novoradovskaya said. 

In May of 2022, the Yershov family began working with the Uniting for Ukraine program to get Novoradovskaya approved as the sponsor for their family. Under the program, sponsors like Novoradovskaya are required to raise $2,275 per refugee, create a plan for the refugee and pass background checks.  

“It took maybe 10 days for the whole process to be approved. The Uniting for Ukraine program was very easy to use and it works very fast.” Novoradovskaya said. 

Soon the Yershov family was planning their journey out of Ukraine, but the decision to leave was nowhere as easy as the approval process. At the end of the day, leaving Ukraine went beyond the necessary forms and documentation; leaving Ukraine would mean leaving behind their home and their lives up until then.

“It was really hard to make a decision to leave behind my mother and grandmother.” Yershov said through a translator, “They would not be able to leave the country because my grandmother was in really bad shape.”

Leaving behind loved ones was not the only challenge of coming to the U.S. though. They had to drive from their house in the East through the whole country to the West during the war in order to get to the airport. 

“This was very scary for them. It was very dangerous,” Novoradovskaya said. 

Once at the airport, the Yershov family made their journey from Poland to Los Angeles where they were picked up by Novoradovskaya and her husband and brought to their home here in San Diego. 

Once in the U.S., there were many things to figure out in order to ensure that the Yershov family would be able to live comfortably. One of the biggest sources of assistance during this time was the Jewish Family Services who had been helping them since their arrival. Temple Solel, located in Cardiff, works closely with JFS and decided to take the Yershov family under their wing. 

“We feel safe and supported here. The community here is very friendly,” Yershov said through a translator.

Temple Solel has helped to provide the family with a phone, clothes, finding an apartment, furniture and even dinner. The Temple has also helped the Yershov family find jobs and attend college classes, as well as enroll their daughter in a local elementary school. Uniting for Ukraine has provided families like the Yershovs with quick approval to become legal refugees in the US, while also aiding them in finding resources they can use to become independent in a short period of time. In just a few months the Yershov family was able to leave their freezing basement in fear, to warm and sunny San Diego with family to support them.

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