Rochester’s Ukrainian community says it’s ready to take in refugees

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester-area Ukrainians declared they’re eagerly waiting for the chance to welcome Ukrainians to safety as millions flee from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As the community prepared for Eastern Orthodox Easter, many expressed hope they could help.

“As soon as the war began, and we saw what was going on, we immediately felt, we looked at each other and said ’We’ll take a family in. We’ll take whoever we can,’” declared Ann Kowal of Webster.

Since the start of the invasion, she and her husband say they‘ve been eager to give shelter to Ukrainians trying to escape to safety.

Members of the Ukrainian community in Webster have been working to raise money and send supplies to Ukraine but now they’re hoping for the chance to give something else, a home.

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it will allow 100,000 Ukrainian refugees expedited status if sponsors offer to take them.

“Now everybody has hopes to sponsor families,” said Roman Kshysyak, President of the Ukrainian cultural center. “Honestly, there is a line of people willing to sponsor, provide sponsorship, provide housing, provide furniture, anything they might need.”

“As the state that has the largest Ukrainian population, we wanted to welcome them,” announced New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Helena Romanyuk said even escaping from a war zone like this can be a tough transition. She moved from Ukraine as a teenager.

“Adjusting to a life in America is not easy," she warned. “So people who are hosting would have to be prepared for a lot of challenges.”

But Ann Kowal said not even tight quarters will discourage her family.

“My daughter, my son-in-law are going to be moving in with us,” she admitted. “But, we have a big home and we will make room.”

“We have communities waiting with open arms,” Hochul said. “From Buffalo, to Syracuse, to Rochester, to Binghamton, to Utica, to New York City, they’ve all been asking for the ability to do this.”

Advocates at the Ukrainian Cultural center say their biggest complaint is how “few” Ukrainians are being let in this time around.

Kshysyak: “One-hundred thousand people? Families? It’s probably very small fraction of what local community can, not even local, but national, what communities can absorb. They willing to sponsor, probably,10 times, 20 times more than US government is allowing.”

Molineaux: "So a million?"

Kshysyak: “Absolutely,” he said. “Nothing is impossible. We are willing to do it.”

The "Uniting for Ukraine" online portal for Ukrainian refugees is scheduled to launch on Monday.