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Immigrant couple helped 11 people flee from war-torn Ukraine, offering hope amidst crisis

Amid the devastating war in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, a couple residing in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, took it upon themselves to make a difference.

Immigrant couple helped 11 people flee from war-torn Ukraine, offering hope amidst crisis
Cover Image Source: YouTube | CBS News

The devastating war that broke out after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, left countless people homeless and caused them to lose their loved ones. While the rest of the world was watching the horrors in the war-torn country from the comfort of their homes, a couple residing in Doylestown, Pennsylvania could not bear to witness the pain of the Ukrainian people. The conflict which was happening overseas, bothered this couple in more than one way.

Image Source: Ukrainian women and children leave the country on March 2, 2022 in Medyka, Poland.  (Photo by Cem Tekkesinoglu/ dia images via Getty Images)
Image Source: Ukrainian women and children leave the country on March 2, 2022, in Medyka, Poland—Getty Images | Tekkesinoglu

Ukrainian immigrant Anastasiya Veli's half-Russian immigrant spouse, Orhan Veli knew exactly what it feels like to be a refugee. Orhan and his family had fled Azerbaijan after the Soviet Union broke apart. He was only 11 at that time. "I was a kid without anything. My parents had nothing. And little by little we were able to kind of build that," Orhan told CBS News. Orhan's father ended up being a pizza delivery worker when their family moved to the U.S. and he eventually became a business owner where Orhan joined as his business partner.



 

On the other hand, Anastasiya had moved to the U.S. from Ukraine when she was 11. The couple eventually met and now they have a family with three kids and are in a position to help others from Ukraine relocate to the U.S. "Having walked in those shoes, it made perfect sense to want to give somebody else those opportunities too," Orhan admitted. When the war broke out Anastasiya became desperate to help her niece who was a single mother stuck in Ukraine.



 

"Once they crossed into Poland, the next big question was how do we get to America? Any refugee program takes years. Orhan can attest to that," she said, also adding that despite talking to countless lawyers, there was no easy solution to help the Ukrainians move to the U.S. Fortunately, America opened the Uniting for Ukraine initiative, a few weeks after the war began. This enabled people in the U.S. to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.

Image Source: Ukrainian refugees celebrate Ukraine Independence Day in front of the Georgian parliament on August 24, 2023 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Independence Day of Ukraine is celebrated on August 24 (Photo by Nicolo Vincenzo Malvestuto/Getty Images)
Image Source: Ukrainian refugees celebrate Ukraine Independence Day in front of the Georgian parliament on August 24, 2023, in Tbilisi, Georgia. Independence Day of Ukraine is celebrated on August 24—Getty Images | Nicolo Vincenzo Malvestuto

"You just have to provide an explanation of how you will help the people coming over assimilate and how you will support them financially, with housing, with work opportunities and so on," Anastasiya said. The process of bringing her niece overseas got simpler. Since Orhan and Anastasiya were qualified to sponsor people from Ukraine, they brought two people over at first. Then they eventually helped 11 people relocate to the U.S.



 

The couple helped the immigrants set up their bank accounts, get driver's licenses and even find jobs. Among the people the Veli family sponsored were Anastasiya's cousin Katya and her husband, Sasha. "For most immigrants, or especially refugee immigrants, when you come over. It's not like you have a choice, 'Am I going to work or not?' It's like, 'Alright, I got to hit the ground running and go for it.' My experience with Sasha was he landed and he was like, 'I don't need any time. I got to start working,'" Orhan said.

Image Source: People from U.S.-based nonprofit organization avaaz light candles beside teddy bear in Schuman Roundabout, the heart of the EU district on February 24, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. According to the report, children from 4 months to 17 years old have been kidnapped, with many placed in Russian re-education camps and some forcibly adopted by Russian families. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
Image Source: People from U.S.-based nonprofit organization Avaaz light candles beside a teddy bear in Schuman Roundabout, the heart of the EU district on February 24, 2023, in Brussels, Belgium. According to the report, children from 4 months to 17 years old have been kidnapped, with many placed in Russian re-education camps and some forcibly adopted by Russian families—Getty Images | Thierry Monasse

Orhan gave Sasha a job at one of his Saladworks company locations and he has already moved up the ranks in his workplace. However, the couple isn't taking all the credit for bringing over 11 people because other kind folks from the community helped them by donating groceries or opening up their homes to them. "This horrible, horrible situation has really highlighted so much goodness out there that has come to the surface. And I believe most people probably think of it the way we take on this whole situation. It's like, well, we want to help," Orhan said, recalling how he had nothing when he moved to a new country. "We have something that allows you to go and help other people," he added. "It's a great little circle that fulfills."



 

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