IRVING PARK — An Irving Park family is asking neighbors to help a Ukrainian mother and her two small children get settled in Chicago after fleeing the Russian invasion this week.
Olesia Kravchuk and her children — Nelia, 3, and Nestor, 2 — are among the more than 2 million Ukrainians who have left their country since the invasion began Feb. 24. They are set to arrive in Chicago on Saturday, said family friend Jamie Murray.
Because of how quickly Kravchuk left their home, she was only able to pack one suitcase with essentials, Murray said. Murray and her husband launched a GoFundMe campaign Wednesday to help the Kravchuks after they arrive. It’s raised more than $5,400 as of Friday morning.
“They’re rebuilding their lives. We booked the flight for them yesterday, and it was $2,000 for three one-way tickets. The prices are so high,” Murray said.
Kravchuk and her children planned to move to the United States before the invasion upended their plans. Her mother-in-law, Olha Volyanyuk, is a U.S. citizen who nannies for the Murrays. Murray hit it off with Volyanyuk when interviewing her for the job.
“The kind of relationship that she and I have is great and very familial,” Murray said. “It’s more than just a professional relationship, and that’s why we wanted to help her family.”
Olesia Kravchuk’s husband, Mykhailo Kravchuk, was approved for a green card last month after waiting for eight years, Murray said. He arrived in the United States just before the invasion, working to get situated and finish the immigration process so he could bring over his wife and children, Murray said.
Mykhailo Kravchuk was living with his mother in Chicago while his wife and kids children stayed in Brody, a city in western Ukraine. When the invasion started, Olesia Kravchuk packed a suitcase and fled with her children to Poland, Murray said.
Volyanyuk and Mykhailo Kravchuk then went to Poland to reunite with Olesia Kraavchuk and the kids, staying in refugee housing before landing in Warsaw, Murray said. The family went to the U.S. Embassy to apply for emergency visas for Olesia Kravchuk and the children, but the best they could do was secure an appointment for July to interview for the visas, Murray said.
Desperate for a quicker solution, Volyanyuk returned to the United States and appealed to the Murrays for help. From Chicago, Volyanyuk and Murray connected with immigration attorneys who helped them understand how to apply for an expedited visa appointment, Murray said.
“You could do none of this in person,” Murray said. “Everything has to be on the computer. … And anytime you click on anything, these red screens come up saying if you falsify anything you’ll be denied. None of them have access to computers in refugee housing.”
Olesia Kravchuk was able to secure a slot Monday and was approved for the emergency visa, Murray said. Mykhailo Kravchuk is still with his wife and children in Warsaw, and the whole family is flying to the United States together, barring any other complications, Murray said.
“It was a tough few weeks. You could see the pain in Olha’s eyes. She’s been tired and not sleeping. She’s watching the news,” Murray said.
While Murray awaits their arrival, she is helping Volyanyuk rearrange furniture in her home and set up beds for family. The money from the GoFundMe will help cover costs of their expensive relocation and rebuild their lives from scratch.
“When Olesia left, she thought she was leaving out of an abundance of caution,” Murray said. “She really thought she was going back right away and only packed clothes she thought she would need for a few nights. Well, she couldn’t go back home. They’re rebuilding their lives now.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: