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Ukrainian refugee bound for Ogden, more may be headed to Northern Utah

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 17, 2022

Photo supplied

Jack Knowlden, left, an Ogden tattoo artist, and Zina Horetska, a Ukrainian refugee in Poland, pose in a photo taken during Knowlden's visit to Warsaw in April 2022. Knowlden is sponsoring Horetska's efforts to come to the United States under a program meant to aid refugees who fled Ukraine due to the invasion by Russia.

OGDEN — The Ukrainian refugee population, or at least a small trickle of it, is potentially coming to Ogden and Northern Utah.

Jack Knowlden, an Ogden tattoo artist who has traveled twice to Poland and Ukraine since Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine, aiming to aid the refugee population, is sponsoring a Ukrainian refugee who wants to come to the United States. He has been compiling all the paperwork required by U.S. immigration officials and received word earlier this month that Zina Horetska will be allowed to come to the United States.

The eastern Ukrainian city where she lived, Novomoskovsk, has been under attack by Russian forces and she fled to Warsaw, Poland, because of the violence.

“She can’t go home,” said Knowlden, who met Horetska during his second trip to Eastern Europe in April. He went on, saying the fighting is “still going on over there.”

At the same time, Ashim Raiani of Syracuse, who traveled to Poland in late April with wife Leyla Kazvin to aid the Ukrainian refugee population, said his efforts are also yielding results. He’s sponsoring two Ukrainian refugee students he met in Poland who want to study at U.S. colleges. They are set to come in August, with one to study in Hawaii and the other in Massachusetts.

Photo supplied

Zina Horetska, a Ukrainian refugee in Poland, tattoos a client in Warsaw in an undated photo. Jack Knowlden of Ogden is sponsoring her efforts to come to the United States under a program meant to aid refugees who fled Ukraine due to the invasion by Russia.

Beyond that, Raiani is helping a Ukrainian woman with two daughters, now in Ireland but hoping to come to Utah; another Ukrainian woman with four daughters; and an 18-year-old Ukrainian woman. He’s sponsoring their efforts, though some of his Syracuse neighbors say they’re also willing to help, and hopes to bring them to Utah.

“This way I don’t feel helpless anymore. I did something,” said Raiani, spurred in his efforts by a sense of wanting to help those in need. “I believe the best prayer is public service.”

Horetska, a tattoo artist like Knowlden, will be coming to Ogden, probably in July, and Knowlden said he suspects she’ll have plenty of work here. He received a tattoo from her in Warsaw and will provide space for her at one of two tattoo shops he operates in Ogden.

“My clients, they’re all begging, ‘When’s she going to be here? I want to be tattooed by her,'” Knowlden said.

Knowlden tapped the Uniting for Ukraine program, created by the administration of President Joe Biden and meant to aid Ukrainians fleeing due to the Russian invasion. Sponsors, like Knowlden, agree to financially support the refugees they’re backing if need be, but the process is intense.

“All the late nights on the computer filing paperwork paid off!” Knowlden wrote in a Facebook post after he received word the application for Horetska had received a green light. “She’s coming to America!”

Horetska had been working as a tattoo artist in Warsaw, sending her earnings back to Ukraine to aid the forces fighting the Russians. “She’s a really awesome, humble person. Amazing artist,” Knowlden said.

Knowlden initially went to Poland in March to help the Ukrainian refugees streaming there. He turned his efforts to helping provide protective gear, medical equipment and more for Ukrainians fighting off the Russians. Now he’s trying to aid Ukrainians wanting to come to the United States.

Aside from Horetska, he’s aiding a woman and her son who hope to come and join the woman’s other son in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “That project’s half done,” Knowlden said, with the woman’s paperwork approved but the son’s application still in the works.

Raiani said helping the two students was relatively easy because they knew they wanted to come and they understand the process. They fled from Ukraine, also to Poland.

Helping the others has required more effort, he said.

The family in Ireland successfully managed to get permission to enter the country from Poland, Raiani said. Now they’re seeking permission to enter the United States, with paperwork in process. The other family and the single Ukrainian are still trying to secure Ukrainian passports to get the process moving.

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