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Seattle area prepares to welcome Ukrainian refugees

caption: A demonstration at the University of Washington in support of Ukraine while Russia invaded the country, February 24, 2022.
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A demonstration at the University of Washington in support of Ukraine while Russia invaded the country, February 24, 2022.
Natalie Newcomb / KUOW

Community groups in the Pacific Northwest say they’re ready to help resettle Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

The United Nations says at least 874,000 people have left Ukraine for neighboring countries, as of Tuesday.

Yuriy Zaremba, who immigrated to the Seattle-area, has had trouble contacting family members living in western Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last week, internet connections there have been spotty and unreliable.

“Really the only information that we're getting is just something along the lines of, ‘We're still alive,’” Zaremba said during a phone interview.

Zaremba is a community advocate at the Ukrainian Community Center of Washington in Renton. He described the images of explosions and bloodshed in Ukrainian cities as “utter horror.”

“My wife is from south Ukraine,” Zaremba said. “She’s not sure if her village even still exists because we saw footage of artillery fire going through it.”

As of Tuesday, the United Nations said it estimates at least 874,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia began invading the country on February 24. That number could grow to 4 million, the UN said.

It isn’t clear yet how many refugees from Ukraine might resettle in the Seattle area. But community groups say they’re prepared to help.

David Duea, president and CEO of Lutheran Community Services Northwest, wrote in an online post that the organization has resettled over 2,100 Ukrainians to the Pacific Northwest in the last five years. Duea expects the region to receive more Ukrainian refugees over the coming months and years.

Last week people across Seattle gathered in support of Ukrainians, carrying handmade posters at multiple rallies across the city. The Space Needle, sports stadiums, and downtown skyline have been lit up this week in the Ukrainian flag’s colors of blue and yellow.

Zaremba said it’s heartwarming to see messages of solidarity from the community, and he hopes the support continues when refugees arrive from Ukraine.

“This is one of the warmest, friendliest places you can land as a refugee,” he said. “This area is well known for that and I’m very proud of that.”

The Ukrainian Community Center of Washington is supporting Mission of Mercy to raise money for food and supplies for Ukrainian people.

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