NewsPinellas County


Gulfport couple works to get their Ukrainian family to Tampa Bay

Couple says process is confusing and frustrating
Posted at 4:49 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 17:46:13-04

GULFPORT, Fla. — A Gulfport business owner and his fiancé are desperate to bring their family members, who evacuated from Ukraine, to the United States.

Gulfport Garage Owner Eric Cudar and fiancé Ulyana Fylypovych recently traveled to Poland to meet his future sister-in-law and her two daughters at the Ukrainian border.

He says in those 10 days, he cried more than he has in the past 10 years. “I saw a little boy get off the bus and I’m looking for his mom and she’s not there. I can’t help but think that’s not an isolated incident,” he explained.

Cudar and his fiancé were able to get Ulyana’s sister and her 10-and 12-year-old nieces into a vacation rental in Poland. Now, they’re struggling to figure out how to bring them to Tampa Bay.

“I would think US immigration officials would make it easier to get some of these folks over here particularly people like my future sister in law who don’t need government help. If we get her here, we can take care of her and help the kids with the trauma they’ve been through,” Cudar added.

Ulyana’s sister’s husband kissed his family at the border, then stayed in Ukraine to fight for his country.

Cudar visited the US Embassy in Poland, he’s been speaking with attorneys and trying to navigate the immigration process. He says he has been given conflicting advice, like learning the US is turning down visitor visas because Ukrainians may not have a country to return to.

“It’s confusing and it’s very frustrating and I kinda felt like I was swindled and now I find out there’s no way she’s going to get in the country with the route we tried. Maybe there is a possibility but everyone we spoke with made it sound like we are stuck right now,” he added.

Cudar is working with Congressman Charlie Crist’s office staff as well but he worries about what he’ll do if the process takes too long.

“My future sister-in-law and her daughters are scared. They can’t speak the polish language, they know nobody there, she can’t work. She’s totally dependent on what help we can give her,” he elaborated.

Cudar is urging US leaders to make it easier for refugees to get emergency visas to come to the United States—even temporarily.

“This is live free or die and these people are willing to take that chance to die for their freedom. The least we can do here is help out,” he said.