Linda Varga called it “our civic duty,” but what she and her husband, Alex, have done transcends that comparatively pedestrian title.
Two weeks ago, the Vargas responded to a segment on a television news program that discussed a project that had been recently undertaken by two Harvard students attempting to match refugees from Ukraine looking for shelter with Americans who had the gift of extra space.
“We had two extra rooms,” Linda Varga said. “I thought we should offer them up. I saw a lot of other people offering space in California and I thought ‘there is no way anyone is going to talk to me.’”
A week later, the Vargas received a message from a 26-year-old Yulana Sychenko, who was in the United States with her mother (Oksana), younger sister (Mariia) and Yorksire terrier (Nyasha), while her father Anatoly enlisted in the Ukrainian army to defend their homeland.
“I asked Yulana when they needed a place to live and she said, ‘How is tomorrow?” Linda Varga said. “I thought OK, this is real now.”
The website, ukrainetakeshelter, thoroughly vetted the Sychenkos and Vargas before making the final arrangements. Oksana Sychenko called the Vargas “incredible hosts, incredible people” during a recent visit to the home shared by all five on Twin Palms Road.
“It was just the least we could do,” Linda Varga said in another supreme example of understatement. “We have so much in life in general and having two empty rooms seemed so wasteful. Alex and I are enjoying it. They are so nice. They constantly want to cook and clean for us. They don’t want to take and they would much rather be working. They have been wonderful industrious people who are always trying to find ways to help.”
Refugees from Ukraine are able to secure only what are called parole visas, which allow an individual who may be inadmissible or otherwise ineligible for admission into the United States to be in this country for a temporary period for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
“Now, we live in a wonderful family, our hosts are just amazing persons, Linda and Alex, they take care of us a lot, like our family,” said Yulana Sychenko. “We are so grateful [to] them. We do not want to be a burden to our hosts and stay with them too long. We are asking for help so that we can move into our own apartment and become hard-working U.S. guests until we can safely return to our beloved country. My sister, Mariie, will enter American school this week and learn English.”
The Sychenko family has had other unforeseen financial burdens. While living in Mexico during their transition to the United States, Oksana Sychenko needed emergency surgery and Yulana Sychenko suffered a broken foot. They also pooled their funds to purchase an ominous piece of equipment for Anatoly Sychenko: A bullet-proof vest that the Ukraine government was not able to supply him with.
“We will be very grateful if you will help our family with a donation or immigration legal services so we can start work and become independent,” Yulana said.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page, which is located at Ukrainian Refugee Family by Yulana Sychenko.
Linda Varga encouraged anyone who would like to help the family to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (626) 419-8725.
“It is so impressive what Linda and Alex are doing,” said San Marino resident Denise Brady, who brought the Vargas’ good deed to the Tribune’s attention.