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How Washington community members are preparing to help Ukrainians

The Ukrainian Community Center of Washington is organizing a petition to get Ukrainians refugee status to come to the U.S.

RENTON, Wash. — Local community groups are coordinating ways to help Ukrainians following a Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday.

Local organizations are in the beginning stages of coordinating aid for Ukrainians. The Ukrainian Community Center of Washington (UCCW), based in Renton, is preparing to help by establishing funds for military support and for humanitarian aid.

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"You know people are dying. Bombs are blowing. Bullets are flying. A lot of relatives are in jeopardy of their life," said Oleg Pynda.

Pynda is executive director of the UCCW and said he has extended family members who are still in his home country. He himself immigrated to the U.S., arriving in Washington state, in 1992.

"It's very emotional," Pynda said.

The UCCW, established in 1998, works to help refugees from Eastern Europe transition into life in Washington through family and school support, senior services, immigration and behavioral health services.

While aid efforts are still in the works, the UCCW is organizing how to get Ukrainians refugee status. A petition is already headed to President Biden's desk, according to Pynda.

"Where we would request that the United States would open the doors to the Ukrainian refugees," Pynda said.

A spokesperson from the Washington Office of Refugee and Immigrant 

Assistance said they have already reached out to their partners at the U.S. State Department to ask about impacts to Washington.

Pynda said Washington is prepared to receive Ukrainian arrivals as Puget Sound already has a well-established Ukrainian community.

An independent English-language Ukrainian newspaper has compiled a list of links where the public can donate to help Ukrainians.

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