Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine to get first refugees

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–In early March, the Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine formed to pool local resources to help Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia come to Muscatine. On Sept. 7, the group looks forward to welcoming their first refugees to Muscatine, and turns to the community to help them give them a warm welcome.

For years, Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine member Walter Conlon has helped bring short-term agricultural workers from Ukraine to the United States to address labor shortages through the H2-A visa program. In 2006, Conlon met Sergei Sviderski in Ukraine, and the two have remained friends ever since. Earlier this year, Sviderski, his wife, and their infant son, evacuated from the town where they lived near Kyiv as fighting intensified in the region. As the Sviderskis fled on foot, Serhii and Svitlana Luka, along with their daughters, Vira and Nadiia, offered them a ride in a van they had borrowed to travel to western Ukraine, where many refugees went to. The Sviderskis gratefully accepted.

Since then, the Sviderskis have had nothing but good things to say about the Lukas. When the Lukas decided they wanted to come to the United States, the Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine wanted to help. Conlon helped them navigate the Uniting for Ukraine visa program, which allows Ukrainians to come to the United States for at least two years, so long as they have a sponsor.

Once the Lukas arrive in Muscatine, the Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine will welcome them with a potluck at Trinity Episcopal Church at 211 Walnut Street in Muscatine on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. Anyone interested in meeting the refugees may attend. After that initial greeting, Ric Smith, a member of the organization, hopes the community will unite to support them as they adapt to life in Muscatine, where they will find a place to live, enroll the children in Muscatine Community School District and the adults in Muscatine Community College’s English language learning program, and take the steps needed for Serhii Luka to continue his career as a truck driver and for Svitlana Luka to work as a housekeeper for a local hotel. Smith welcomes anyone who could help with transportation, finding winter clothing, providing home goods (such as sheets and towels), and even just companionship to consider helping, as the group feels especially passionate about, “making sure they have people in their lives they can count on and depend on and not feel isolated.”

Anyone who would like to help the Luka family or get involved with the Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine may contact Conlon by calling 563-676-6307 or emailing him or Smith by calling 563-272-1646 or emailing him. Additionally, the organization welcomes anyone to come join them at their next meeting, which will take place at the Musser Public Library, located at 408 E 2nd Street in Muscatine, at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 1. Anyone wanting to offer financial support may make a donation to the World Relief Muscatine County Charitable Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine using their website.

With preparations underway for the Lukas to come to Muscatine, both Conlon and Smith feel excited for this opportunity to positively impact the lives of Ukrainian refugees. “It’s part of the social responsibility we all have,” said Conlon.

“I think it’s going to be terrific for our community to reach out and branch out,” added Smith.

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