SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – A Ukrainian mother who fled from Kyiv with her 4-month-old baby was unable to board a flight to San Francisco International Airport because her baby did not have a travel visa and passport.
Olha Korol and her infant son, Severyn Korotniuk, fled after the Russian military invaded. Her husband and father stayed behind in Kyiv.
They took a 20-hour bus ride before reaching Frankfurt, Germany, where they are currently stranded.
Korol and her baby had plane tickets to fly from Germany to San Francisco on March 7 with hopes of reaching family members who live in San Jose, California.
“I went to the Ukrainian consulate in Frankfurt. They put a photo of my baby in my passport. They put stamps showing it’s official and legal. They said it should be enough. He’s an infant, he’s small, he doesn’t have anything. Then we boarded the plane and the (airlines) did not board us because the baby doesn’t have a passport,” Korol told Nexstar’s KRON4.
The war has forced more than 2.8 million civilians to flee Ukraine, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the conflict.
While stuck in limbo and alone with her baby, Korol worries about her husband and father back in Ukraine.
“When I look out at Germany, I feel guilt that we can breathe. My husband and my father are not able to go out because it’s safer to stay in the shelters,” Korol said.
Korol said she still hears emergency sirens blaring.
“In Kyiv, there were sirens all the time. Even when it’s silent, I still hear it,” Korol said.
Air raid sirens were heard across Ukraine Monday as Russian troops refocused their efforts to seize Kyiv.
The fighting is now in the third week. A pregnant woman and her baby were among the dead, after Russia bombed the maternity hospital in Mariupol where she was meant to give birth.
The towns of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel have seen some of the worst conflict during Russia’s stalled attempt to take the capital.
Last week, Veronika Didusenko, a former Miss Ukraine, called on the United States to do more to help mothers fleeing Ukraine with children by granting “humanitarian parole.” The status allows otherwise ineligible people to enter the United States “if you have a compelling emergency and there is an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit to allowing you to temporarily enter the United States,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Didusenko fled with her 7-year-old son from Kyiv while Russian military bombs fell from the sky.
“On February 24, my 7-year-old son and I were awakened by sirens and explosions. In between raids, we, along with tens of thousands of other families, tried to get out of the city,” Didusenko said.
Didusenko and her son escaped over Ukraine’s southwestern border. They traveled across Moldova, Romania, and Luxembourg before reaching a friend’s house in Switzerland.
Didusenko said she went to a U.S. embassy to obtain a travel visa for her son so they could fly to California together. Her son’s visa application was denied.
Like many Ukrainian refugees, Korol said she loves her country and hopes to return after the war is over.
“I had a good life in Kyiv,” Korol said.
Her cousin, Lena Tutko, lives in San Jose and is holding out hope that Korol and Severyn will find a way to California. Tutko started a GoFundMe page to help Korol pay for places to stay in Germany.
“They are stuck in a foreign country, with no resolution in sight. I am desperately trying to help my family in this very difficult situation,” Tutko said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.