Cincinnati woman with family in Ukraine frustrated at Biden administration’s refugee stance

‘Literally our government is not allowing me to bring my family over so they can live.’
Cincinnati woman's sister trying to war-torn Ukraine
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 8:17 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A local woman is experiencing the brutal conflict in Ukraine through the lens of her family nearly 5,000 miles away.

Diana Ewald lives in Cincinnati. Ewald’s sister, Violetta Vargo, lives in Ukraine with their parents and Vargo’s 5-year-old son. They remain on the western border of Ukraine helping those escaping the war-torn country, where each day is more frightening than the last.

“I say I don’t scare anymore, because it’s my land, it’s my home,” Vargo told FOX19 Friday from the city of Uzhgorod.

Uzhgorod is around 200 miles from Lviv, a haven for some of the 3.2 million Ukrainians who have fled the conflict. A Russian missile strike outside Lviv early Friday punctuated a new trend of bombardments in the unscathed western part of the country. On Sunday, another Russian airstrike hit a military base 11 miles from the same border.

Varga says many Ukrainians still don’t understand why Russia invaded.

“It’s our land,” she said, “our houses, our businesses. Everything is here. Why Russians just attack us, I don’t understand, and the whole world is just watching. Yes, they help, but not for real.”

The Refugee Resettlement Debate

The EU is preparing to grant Ukrainians who flee the war a blanket right to stay and work throughout the 27 nations for up to three years. President Joe Biden has made Ukrainians in the US eligible for temporary protected status, which shields them from deportation and lets them seek employment. The measure lasts 18 months and applies only to those who arrived in the US before March 1.

Calls are mounting for the Biden administration to shorten the lengthy resettlement process for Ukrainians fleeing to the US as it did for Afghans last year, but no such moves have yet been made.

The US has taken in fewer than a thousand Ukrainian refugees so far, per Reuters. The State Department has signaled Europe should be the primary destination for Ukrainians.

Ewald says that’s not good enough. She wants to bring her family to Ohio right now.

“They want to live on their land,” she said. “But for the meantime, just so they are alive to go back home, why am I not allowed to do that? Literally our government is not allowing me to bring my family over so they can live.”

Vargo, however, is resolved on staying to help shelter and feed other Ukrainians escaping violence, many of whom left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. She says she once saw a woman crossing the bolder carrying a baby in nothing but a diaper.

As much as it’s a source of apprehension for her sister thousands of miles away, it’s also a source of price.

“As I’m seeing dad going to the store and buying supplies for these refugees who have nothing, and I’m seeing my sister bathing babies in her tub, I’m so incredibly proud of them,” Ewald said. “They’re showing so much courage.”

Ewald is currently raising money to help refugees fleeing the conflict. She’s taking donations through Venmo @diana-Ewald-1.

Ukraine: State of the War on March 18

The heaviest fighting in the four-week-old conflict has been near Kyiv in central Ukraine and in the devastated southern port city of Mariupol, around which a Russian Defense Ministry official said Friday that its troops were “tightening the noose.”

Russia’s blunderous start to the invasion appears to have compelled a strategy of ever more indiscriminate acts of violence as well as targeted strikes against civilian populations. A Department of Defense official said Friday Russia is foregoing precision-guided munitions in favor of “dumb bombs” due in part to supply shortages.

The recent bombings of a maternity hospital and a theater in Mariupol and residential buildings and schools in Kyiv have produced some of the most horrifying images of the war. In the case of the theater bombing, the New York Times reports satellite images showed that the word “children” had been written in large white letters in Russian in front of the building and behind it.

The United Nations says at least 726 civilians, including 52 children, have been killed since the war started.

But Ukrainian troops are blocking Russian advances and in some cases winning back seized territory. Russian forces haven’t made much progress in an attempted siege of Kyiv, and Ukrainian troops Friday afternoon conducted a major successful counterattack around Mykolayiv near Odessa, where Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are overstretched.

“We have anecdotal indications that Russian morale is flagging,” the DOD official said. “[...]Some of that is, we believe, a function of poor leadership, lack of information that the troops are getting about their mission and objectives, and I think, disillusionment from being resisted as fiercely as they have been.”

A Ukrainian military spokesperson says Russia has “significantly exhausted its human resources” due to battle casualties, cases of self-mutilation to avoid deployment, and psychological factors.

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