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Ukrainian mother in US struggling to access government benefits

Oksana Voskresenska fled Ukraine with her daughter. They are now living with relatives in Broomfield.

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — On February 24, Oksana Voskresenska woke up to bombing. The city she called home in Ukraine is now destroyed.

"It was just very loud," Voskresenska said. "Then we know that the war is starting and we don’t understand why, because it was no reason for this." 

Voskresenska made the decision to flee Ukraine with her daughter Adelina. She also made the difficult journey alongside her grandmother. 

Right now, most Ukraine nationals are not allowed to enter the United States directly. Most are coming through the Mexican border in order to be granted humanitarian parole. 

In Voskresenska's case, she traveled from Ukraine to Poland to Germany to Mexico, then to San Diego. Her final stop was Denver so she could live with relatives in Broomfield.

"It’s a long journey. Twenty-seven hours I think it was, just the plane," Voskresenska said.

Once she was finally in the States, she assumed it would be easier to find relief and help, particularly from governmental resources.

"I don’t even think that in so big country I have this problem," she said. 

She applied for SNAP benefits to get help with food, as well as Medicaid. She still has not been granted a work visa and was denied when she applied for the additional benefits, in part because Ukrainian refugees had not yet been granted temporary protected status by the government. 

The government has now granted that status to refugees living in the United States since April 11. There are currently an estimated 59,600 people in the U.S. who are eligible under the designation of Ukraine, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Due to the thousands of people who are now eligible, people like Oksana worry it may cause a backlog. She's unsure how long it will take to receive that status, and it's still unclear if she would be granted a work permit if her application is successful. 

"Of course it will help me a lot, because I will have the possibility to work and I can buy something for my child. I can give her more," Voskresenska said. 

As Voskresenska tries to access government resources, Broomfield City Council member Heidi Henkel is working closely to get her the help she needs. Henkel is also the director of the Broomfield Afghan Evacuee Task Force, so she has started to help Ukrainians settling in the area.

"If America is really serious about being a land of opportunity, now is the time to really listen to ourselves and who America needs to be," Henkel said. 

She is hopeful that she and others may be able to help Oksana and her daughter receive the help they need, but said the system only makes it more difficult for people who don't speak English as their first language and leave everything behind because they have no other choice.

"Every person and every human in our world deserves a safe haven. If America is it, we need to provide that for them," Henkel said.

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