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Ukrainian refugees arriving in western Washington

Snohomish County is believed to have the highest Ukrainian population in the state.

EVERETT, Wash. — They are strangers in a strange land.

Vitalii Ktitorov, his wife Nataliia, and their children Poliina and Sofiia escaped war-torn Ukraine and relocated to Everett to live with Nataliia's father. In total, there are 11 people crammed into a 2 bedroom apartment.

Everything the family owns now fits in two small bags.

"I can't believe what's going on," said Vitalii through an interpreter. "Even when I saw the bombing I still couldn't believe it."

Vitalii keeps video and photos on his phone that shows the devastation in his hometown. The destruction is immense. One photo shows an unexploded Russian bomb that landed in a children's playground.

Natalia worries about the impact it's having on her girls, ages 4 and 2.

"They're scared of loud noises because of the bombing," she said. "They're asking questions like: Why did we leave our house? Why did we leave our toys?"

It took the family more than a week to get to America. They had to cross through seven different countries and ultimately entered the United States through Mexico.

They're now preparing to build a new life.

Vitalii was a taxi driver in Ukraine.

"We are hard-working people," he said. "We want to work so we can try to have a normal life."

The family will seek asylum, register their children for school, and begin to learn English.

First, they will need the basics, such as permanent housing.

Van Dinh-Kuno runs Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest. She said the state is waiting on about $28 million in federal refugee aid. That money is desperately needed, she said.

"Because our clients can't wait," she said. "We can't put them on the streets or in a homeless shelter. We don't want to traumatize them again."

Dinh-Kuno expects 2,000 to 3,000 Ukrainian refugees to arrive in Washington state over the coming weeks. 

As the Ktitorov family begins to adapt to a new life in America, they can't help but worry for all those left behind. Vitalii's 61-year-old mother and Nataliia's two sisters are still in the war zone.

"We want our people to have peace," Natalia said. "They are living in hell."

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