2 men sail from Russia to US to flee persecution, settle in Tacoma

Two male donors said the choice they faced was a simple one, but one that only a few can make.

TACOMA, Wash. – Last October, two neighbors, identified as Sergey and Maksim, had to join the army to fight in the conflict between their homeland and Ukraine.

But instead of fighting, they decided to run away.

In a 13-foot boat, the two men braved storms and raging currents to travel about 300 miles from Egvekinot, Russia, finally landing near Gambell, Alaska five days later. When they arrived, the couple was sent to Anchorage for processing.

When the two men were scheduled to arrive at the ICE NW detention center in Tacoma, a Ukrainian pastor in Alaska reached out to Roman Mittin.

“What they did was very brave because not many people can do it,” Mittin said. “Not many people can say, either we will go and have a free life, or we will die. That was the decision they made.”

Originally from Ukraine, Mittin runs a church in Tacoma, and helps refugees from Russia and Ukraine to settle in the United States.

He also said the war that Sergey and Maksim were fleeing were all too familiar and many Russian citizens were fleeing.

“My hometown has been fighting since 2014, so when the big war happened, we started helping the refugees even more,” he said. “If you are in Russia, you have to go to someone’s house and take over their house. It’s not the right fight. I think most people understand that, they just don’t want to do it.”

Attorney Nicolas McKee is also helping the two men process their case through the system.

McKee says finding a place to stay for the likes of Sergey and Maksim can be a challenge after they’re released and waiting to hear their asylum cases.

“They are willing to build a house here, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” he revealed. “Almost everyone I work with has that desire, like ‘I’m going to leave my house, not because I want to, but because I have to’.”

McKee also said Sergey and Maksim’s story is all too common for people fleeing political repression from their governments.

“Their story is unique because of their journey, their passion, their work to get here, and obviously because the world cares about the war in Ukraine,” McKee said. “At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that there are thousands of Sergey and Maksim people fleeing that persecution in many parts of the world every day.”

https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/tacoma/men-sail-from-russia-to-us-settle-in-tacoma/281-cc80c7ae-cc02-483a-9018-858f447e2e34 2 men sail from Russia to US to flee persecution, settle in Tacoma

Edmund DeMarche

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