Apr 2, 2022 • 1HR 30M

A Ukrainian refugee in Tijuana

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Appears in this episode

Yasha Levine
Evgenia Kovda
A podcast by Evgenia Kovda and Yasha Levine.

Today on The Russians, Evgenia and I talk to Masha Surazhsky who has been going through hell for the past month trying to get her elderly aunt and a family friend who is a minor — both of whom fled Ukraine amidst Russia’s invasion — out of Poland and to America.

After a month, her Ukrainian aunt is still stuck in Warsaw with little help from anyone, except her family in America — all while the cost of housing has doubled or even tripled there, with some locals taking advantage of the desperate situation to make money from all the refugees streaming into their country. In the meantime, Liza, the 17-year-old family friend from Ukraine that Masha was chaperoning and was planning to sponsor in America, has been separated from her at the border earlier this week and treated like a prisoner, not a young woman war refugee — kept in horrible conditions, her phone and belongings taken away, aggressively interrogated, not allowed to speak Russian to Masha over the phone. At the time that we’re publishing this, she is still in detention and is being sent to a privatized ICE facility somewhere in New York State. Her future in America remains uncertain.

Masha gives us a sense of what the Ukrainian refugee situation and process looks like — both in Ukraine, in Poland, and at the border with Tijuana, the only border where the Biden Administration will process Ukrainian war refuges. As Masha explains to us, it quickly became clear to her in Europe and now here in America that despite all the pro-Ukrainian flag waving and slogans from American politicians, America is doing very little to help Ukrainian refugees displaced by this war. Congress and the Biden Administration approved sending billions in weapons and military aid to Ukraine in record time. Helping refugees — mostly women, children, and the elderly? Other publishing press releases, it’s doing pretty much nothing at all.

—Yasha Levine

UPDATE TWO: We talked with Masha a few months later to get an update and see how everything went.

UPDATE: Here is Masha’s GoFundMe page to help her cover expenses of relocating and supporting her aunt and three other women refugees. Please give if you can!

“I am now faced with the daunting task of relocating Liza to reunite with her and resettle her into a new life in America within the comfort of my home as quickly as possible. This is against the backdrop of an infamously cruel immigration system here in the United States. In addition to this, I must pay for the housing expenses of Natali, my aunt, and Liza's best friend who remain stuck in Warsaw, Poland, where they have yet to receive any support and do not have any funds after fleeing the war in Ukraine. This process will continue until we are all able to reunite, hopefully.”

Masha (right) and Liza being interviewed on the border.
Masha, her mom Natalie, and Liza at the Coyoacan Market in Mexico City, on their way to Tijuana to cross the border.

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