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US Rep. Diana DeGette holds discussion with three recently-escaped Ukrainians

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Posted at 4:45 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 19:24:52-04

DENVER — U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette met Tuesday morning with three Ukrainian women who recently escaped from their home country and moved to Denver. They each shared their harrowing experiences of what life is like in Ukraine at the moment.

"This is just a terrible, terrible situation, even worse situation than any of us could have imagined," DeGette, a Democrat representing Colorado's 1st Congressional District, said.

Iryna Rothko, 36, moved to Colorado two weeks ago with her two young kids. She had to leave her husband behind and later learned her street back home had been bombed.

"Her husband insisted them to leave the country because till now they still hear the sounds of sirens in Kyiv and outside of Kyiv," Marina Dubrova, a translator, said on Rothko's behalf.

Katerina Khmil, 73, and her daughter Tetiana, 53, arrived in Denver about a week ago from Poltava in eastern Ukraine. They were some of the first to learn a war had officially started.

"They experienced the bombing and the first minute of the war [at] 5 o'clock in the morning on February 24," Dubrova said on their behalf.

Coming to the U.S. wasn't an easy decision for any of them as they had to leave behind everything, and everyone, they know.

Tetiana's husband and adult sons are still there.

"Even though they're here in a safe and warm place, they don't feel safe because the country is in the war," Dubrova said.

Jennifer Wilson, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Denver, says more than 17,000 Ukrainian refugees have moved to the U.S. over the past five years. Many more are expected to come because of the war.

"If people want to come here or to stay, and it can take some time, I am very happy that we're in a position as a state where we are very welcoming," Wilson said.

All three are lucky to have family in Colorado who can guide them through whatever comes next. And as they've already witnessed, Coloradans will be right there with them.

DeGette says the Biden administration is working to make sure Ukrainians seeking refuge in the U.S. can do so as quickly as possible. Most, so far, are coming on tourist visas. Congress is also working to supply Ukraine with more aid.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to note the U.S., not Colorado, has accepted 17,000 Ukrainian refugees over the past five years.