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Canoe paddlers offer assistance to Ukrainians who are stranded on Hawaii's shores.

A family from Ukraine came to Hawaii for their long-awaited vacation. They were shocked when bombs began dropping on their homeland.

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Canoe paddlers offer assistance to Ukrainians who are stranded on Hawaii's shores.

They are still stranded on Oahu, without any access to their home, money, or family, nearly a month later.

They have found support from the local canoe paddle community which provided them with accommodation and money to get settled. They don't know when they'll be able to return home.

Vasyl Prishchak, Marina Prishchak, and their three daughters, ages 5-10 and 16 arrived in Hawaii in February. They had a three-week vacation on the beach, before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Vasyl Prishchak said, "This vacation changed my life." He and his wife run a cosmetics business with locations in Ukraine, Russia Belarus, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Belarus. "We don’t know what we will do when we return to Ukraine, and we don’t know how. We will start from scratch, starting from zero."

They don't know if their house is still standing near the military base in Kyiv and they feel financially ruined by the closure of their family business.

The family had visited Hawaii many times before, to visit long-time friends Borys Markin and Beata Markin. Vasyl, a friend of Borys for over 30 years, and both are avid ocean paddlers.

The community helped the family with everything, from financial assistance and housing to immigration and school questions.

They were previously staying in a Kailua home, which is a coastal town on Oahu's windward side. But Beata Markin, a family friend, said that they have now found a Kaneohe cottage where they can stay for free.

Markin, who was born and raised in Hungary, said that they have no place to go. She has been living in Hawaii with her Ukrainian husband for eight years. "I believe it is our responsibility to ensure they are safe here.

Canoe club members have raised over $32,000 to support the family through an online fundraiser.

Charlotte Johnson, an Oahu resident, wrote that "sadly, we cannot help all the Ukrainians but we can help these families." They cannot access their accounts because the banking system in Ukraine has been a mess. We can't imagine anyone going on vacation and finding that the life we had is gone."

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians fled to Russia when Russia invaded. The United Nations estimates that more than 3.8million people fled Ukraine since the war started, which is the largest movement of people in Europe since World War II.

Although U.S. officials couldn't immediately determine how many Ukrainians were on business or tourism visas in the U.S. at the time of the war, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that 75,000 Ukrainians will be eligible for Temporary Protected status, which allows them to remain in the country for up to 18 months.

Although the Prishchak family is hopeful of returning home soon, they have applied to stay under the program. It was established in 1990 to allow individuals to remain in the U.S. in case of civil war or natural disasters in their homeland countries. Permission to return is granted until Homeland Security determines that the conditions are safe enough.

The U.S. has also increased its efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees in other countries. Last week, President Joe Biden visited Brussels to meet European allies. He stated that the U.S. would accept up to 100,000 additional Ukrainian refugees and provide $1B in humanitarian aid to countries affected by Russia’s invasion.

Mariia, Prishchak’s oldest daughter, stated that her excitement over vacationing in Hawaii was soon replaced by fear for her loved ones.

She said that they took many photos in the first week. But, "one day, we disappeared from all social networks because it is not time to post these photos when people are suffering."

Mariia stated that she had always longed to go to school in America, but not in such dire circumstances. Mariia checks in daily with her family and friends to ensure they are safe.

She said, "Everyday, I hope that the next day everything will be completed." "And it's awful. "I'm lost and confused. I have no other options but to think about it."

Her father stated that it was difficult to be in a safe place like a tropical paradise when other men her age are fighting back at home and cannot leave the country.

In Russian, the elder Prishchak stated that it was a terrible feeling and that it eats at you inside. It's impossible to stop their madness. You could describe it as a feeling that eats at you inside. It's a horrible feeling, an inner guilt that says I'm here but not there.


 

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