Note: The name has been changed, but the facts have not.
Ivan, a husband and father, operated successful businesses in Ukraine. He and his wife owned a fitness franchise and started a business that filtered water for the City of Kyiv.
In 2014, Ivan learned that Ukrainian soldiers needed help in the Donbas region and that children in the City of Toretsk needed clothing. That summer, he and a friend gathered water, food, money, medicine and clothing for the soldiers and children, including provisions for an aid organization called His Kids Too.
They drove about 12 hours from Kyiv to Toretsk. Upon arrival, Ivan quickly realized this was not a one-time trip and dedicated himself to keep providing resources. They delivered goods to Ukrainian soldiers, children, hospitals, and senior citizens in Donbas.
For the first six months, Ivan and his friend delivered goods weekly, then reduced the trips to monthly. Soldiers warned them to avoid certain roads due to snipers, to drive fast and not stop for anyone.
In November 2015, Ivan discovered a website that had names of volunteers who were assisting Ukrainian soldiers. He was shocked to see himself identified as one who needed to be killed and eliminated. He found other volunteers marked as already killed and eliminated. Undeterred, he continued his humanitarian trips.
In Kyiv, Ivan had three small stores for his water business. In December 2015, several men came to one store and threatened him to close or face consequences. All three stores were vandalized. His neighbors also told him to stop his relief efforts; they punctured his delivery van’s tires to prevent him from returning to Donbas. They accosted his wife. The local school kept his son from attending kindergarten.
The constant threats and persecution forced the family to mostly stay home. In June 2016, Ivan found evidence of a break-in. He made several reports to local police, to no avail.
His two years of trips to Donbas ended. The family left their home and businesses and fled their beloved Ukraine, settling in Vancouver, Washington.
In January 2017, with the help of LCSNW’s Safe Route Immigration program, they filed for asylum. Ivan is still waiting for his asylum interview. The Safe Route team has tried to reassure the family that a six-year wait is not unusual.