President Joe Biden has said the US will admit up to 100,000 refugees, prompting Ukrainians in cities such as Sacramento and Seattle to make preparations to support those fleeing the conflict-hit country.
As the United States prepares to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees following Russia's assault, existing communities in cities such as Sacramento and Seattle are already mobilising to provide food, shelter and support to those fleeing the conflict.
The federal government hasn't said when the formal resettlement process will begin, but Ukrainian groups are already supporting people entering the country through other channels, including on visas that will eventually expire or by flying to Mexico and crossing over the border.
“No refugee is waiting for you to be ready for them," said Eduard Kislyanka, senior pastor at the House of Bread church near Sacramento, which has been sending teams of people to Poland and preparing dozens of its member families to house people arriving in California.
President Joe Biden said last week the US would admit up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to countries affected by the exodus.
The administration has yet to provide a timeline for refugee resettlement — often a lengthy process — or details on where refugees will be resettled.
Many who reach the United States will likely go to cities that already have strong Ukrainian communities.
READ MORE: ‘A bit like Tinder’: volunteers match Ukrainian refugees with housing hosts
'Every door is open'
The Sacramento region is home to the highest concentration of Ukrainian immigrants in the country, with about 18,000 people, according to census data. The Seattle, Chicago and New York City areas are also hubs.
Word is spreading about the resources available in Sacramento, where churches like House of Bread are connecting Ukrainians who have already arrived with host families who can offer shelter and help access government resources and transportation.
Kislyanka called the church's actions a “stop gap" measure designed to help as people await more clarity about the formal government resettlement process.
“Most of these people do not have any relations, like they don't know anybody here," said Kislyanka, who came to the US as a child in the early 1990s.
“Having somebody who can help them navigate the cultural shock and navigate the system...it just makes things a lot easier and smoother."
Beyond the dozens of Slavic churches in the Sacramento region, there are schools that serve mainly Ukrainian and Russian students.
Eastern European grocery stores and restaurants offer favourite foods like borscht, a type of beetroot soup, and varenyky, a boiled dumpling. Businesses started by Ukrainians try to hire others from their country.
“It's very easy when you come here. Every door, it's open for you," said Oleksandra Datsenko, who came to the US six years ago and works as a waitress at Firebird Russian Restaurant, which serves Eastern European fare in a Sacramento suburb.
Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began in late February, over 4 million people are estimated to have fled Ukraine and millions more have been displaced within the country. Of them, over 2.3 million have arrived in Poland.
READ MORE: Poland braces for potential human trafficking on the border with Ukraine