This is their sesame: “We have number 3,083 on the waiting list,” slips in a feverish voice Viktoriya Nichay, 28, glued to her spouse in the Tijuana gymnasium, transformed into a refuge. Like this couple, more than 4,000 Ukrainians are waiting their turn in this border town in northern Mexico to cross to the United States. Washington’s promises of welcome are attracting more and more refugees to this decrepit agglomeration, accustomed to the massive arrivals of Central American immigrants.
“Our turn should not delay any longer”, hopes Viktoriya, who is trying to regain her strength after an odyssey of more than 17,000 kilometers, across five countries and an ocean. The engineering couple lived in the suburbs of kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, when Russia launched the offensive on February 24. “We were woken up by a bomb just outside our house, tells in perfect English this woman with brown hair done in a bun. In less than ten minutes, we packed two small suitcases, took our laptops, our passports and fled by car. »
Tired by fatigue, her husband, Volodymyr Kolisnichenko, 28, drove for thirty-three hours to the Netherlands, where the couple spent nearly a month with a friend. Volodymyr is one of the few young men in the mattress-lined gymnasium, filled with women and children. “A chronic illness allowed me to escape conscription in Ukraine, from which only the elderly and the fathers of at least three minors are exempt, entrusts this guy in socks and gray jogging. When we learned that Washington was opening its border to refugees, we went to the American consulate. There was a crazy crowd so we decided to go through Mexico. » The country does not require visas from Ukrainians, unlike the United States. The couple then boarded a plane for Bogota and then another for Mexico City, where they took a connection to Tijuana, hoping to join Volodymyr’s brother in Seattle, in the northwestern United States.
“Two or three days” of waiting
On March 24, US President Joe Biden announced the reception of 100,000 Ukrainians. “They had been arriving in dribs and drabs for a month, says Enrique Lucero, in charge of migration at the town hall of Tijuana, a city of 2 million inhabitants. This announcement caused a call for migratory air, forcing us to make our municipal sports center available to them,” planted a few meters from the huge metal wall that separates the two countries. Nearly 2,000 Ukrainians camp inside the stadium. As many are staying in hotels in Tijuana.
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