Lucky third: 🇺🇦🇺🇸 journey

Anton Kravenko
5 min readJul 26, 2022

Pre-story

To tell the story without cutting out things that matter, I must start back in 2011 — the year when I said goodbye to my family and moved to the U.S. to build a new life. What matters here is not me but my dad, who always had a dream — the American one.

Despite being born in the USSR, my dad always wanted to visit America but never had an opportunity to realize his dream. So when he saw this opportunity for me, he made sure that I could live “my” own American dream for him.

The first three years I spent in school, and then followed a new job with immigration troubles. In these early years, we never found a good time for my family to visit as I was still navigating my new life in this new country. Suddenly, things worsened when in 2014, my dad had multiple strokes and developed dementia. It quickly became too late, and then dad was gone.

First visa application

A few years passed, and my “new immigrant” life started to come together, yet, none of my family had a chance to visit. So in 2017, my mom and nephew applied for a U.S. tourist visa but received a denial.

Discouraged, we thought we would try the tourist visa again in a few years, but unfortunately, that also didn’t happen as there was this whole other story. So we never considered re-applying for the visa until February 25, 2022. Everything in our lives turned upside down that day as my home country was under full-scale invasion.

We all watched a 60-mile-long Russian convoy approaching my mother’s town, Irpin, while nearby villages were constantly bombarded. In the first days, my mother’s apartment was separated from my sister’s as the bridges connecting the cities were blown up by the military to stop hostile advancement.

She spent five nights sleeping in the underground parking and miraculously managed to depart just in time before her own apartment building was hit by a missile. At some point, it all felt like a CIA movie scene. I was in front of Google maps, combining data from the Institute for the Study of War and updates from media, while my girlfriend was closely monitoring telegram channels of the nearby town — all to provide meaningful intel to my mother, who was driving West. Stressed yet fully awake until early mornings, we were guiding my family away from this madness.

We did this for about a week and managed to get my family in safety. My sister with her family relocated to Western Ukraine, and my mother was now in Moldova. We now faced another question — what should we do next?

Fortunate to have incredible friends, so many of them reached out to offer practical help. My friend Aileen was ready to drive from Berlin to Moldova to meet my mother. My other friend Marian was there to host my mother in Slovakia, and Tina suggested that she stays at her house in Portugal, where I could also easily visit.

We agreed on Portugal as a place to regroup and decide what we do next. As we were exploring options, we gravitated towards Canada as it hosts the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora. Canada also meant that my mother could hopefully visit the U.S., and the CUAET visa made it easy to apply.

Second attempt

We agreed on Canada, but deep inside, we still wanted my mother to come to the U.S. for a few months. After what she went through, she needed emotional support, and we wanted to be there for her.

We found the U.S. embassy in Brussels with a few open interview spots, and mom was getting ready to board another flight. With help from qualified attorneys, we prepared the case and hired an interpreter to accompany the interview, but here came our second denial. Devastated, we concluded that the U.S. was out of the picture, so we concentrated solely on Canada.

After two more weeks and a trip to Turkey, my mother received a Canadian visa. Finally, she was ready to fly, so I was looking around for places to stay. In addition to just finding a place, I was looking for a community and people who could meet my mother as she arrived in a new country. I stumbled upon Ukrainetakesshlter — a website built by two MIT students.

There, I found Jakob and Marlowe, who were exceptionally lovely and offered my mother to stay in their house until we had a permanent place. With this level of support, all of us started to feel better. My mother began taking English classes, and we were now waiting for a few friends who could join her in Canada.

As we were approaching the first month in Canada, Uniting for Ukraine visa for the U.S. was announced under which 100,000 Ukrainians could come to the country. Of course, given the immigration history, our expectations were low, but still, we wanted to give it a shot. So I prepared the documents, reviewed them with the immigration attorneys, and applied within the program’s first days.

Lucky third

Somehow, this third U.S. visa application was approved, and my mother was granted entry authorization. Another good news came just in time as I received my travel authorization card and could fly outside the county. So I boarded a plane to Canada to meet my mother and say a proper thank you to the family she stayed with.

A two-day trip to spend quality time with mom and two more families — one who hosted my mother and another who went through the same horror of leaving Ukraine.

On June 28, 2022 — approx. 11 years after I left my motherland — for the first time, I was able to welcome my mother into my U.S.-based home.

Final notes:

  • If you or your loved ones are navigating a similar process, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
  • Those from Ukraine 🇺🇦 relocating to Canada, my mom is looking to make friends when she’s back.
  • My mother enjoys knitting 🧶 and makes beautiful sweaters, so we set her up with Etsy & Instagram accounts.

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