Acclaimed Tampa chef helps bring in employee’s Ukrainian mother

When Yuliya Yaroshchuk learned she needed a US-based sponsor to get her mother out of war-torn Ukraine to join her in Tampa, she immediately thought of her boss, celebrity chef BT Nguyen.

“Because I know her story and I know she will definitely help me out,” said Yaroshchuk, 28, who has served the past two years as a server at all three restaurants in Nguyen’s South Tampa.

What do you want to know

  • The Biden administration unveiled its Uniting for Ukraine agenda in April
  • The program has allowed more than 23,000 Ukrainian nationals to come to the United States
  • BT Nguyen, who fled Vietnam as a 13-year-old refugee in 1975, has been an acclaimed chef in Tampa for decades

Nguyen fled South Vietnam as a 13-year-old refugee in 1975 and came to the United States after Saigon fell to the communist North Vietnamese government.

“I didn’t hesitate,” Nguyen said when asked by Yaroshchuk if she would act as godmother. “There was no doubt.”

Nguyen’s sponsorship will now allow Yaroshchuk’s mother to come to the United States in the coming weeks, through the Biden administration’s “Uniting for Ukraine” program, which was announced on April 21. The program offers Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members a pathway to come to the United States and stay there for a period of 2 years, if they can find someone in the United States who is willing to provide support. financial support for the duration of their stay.

More than 23,000 Ukrainian nationals have arrived in the United States under the Uniting for Ukraine program, according to a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Officials say the agency has received more than 80,000 applications.

Nguyen said she wanted to send the message that people can do something for Ukrainians they know in the community.

“We can save so many lives and give them so many opportunities, just like my American family sponsored me in 1975,” she said. “That’s how I came to America and became an American citizen and have businesses and opportunities in America.”

At one point, nearly 7 million Ukrainians fled their homes after the Russian invasion in late February, according to the United Nations. More recent reports show that around a third of them have since returned to Ukraine.

Yaroshchuk and her partner have lived in Tampa for nearly four years now, and she says she loves the area. Yet as the war in Ukraine enters its sixth month, she remains deeply concerned about her home country and fears that Americans and others around the world will stop paying attention to the very human tragedy that continues to unfold. every day in Ukraine.

“When I see some people don’t even know what’s going on — they think it’s almost over — I mean, it upsets me,” she said. “Some places in Ukraine are completely destroyed. Completely – as if there is nothing. So we have to do something, and people have to be involved, because we need help.”

Yaroshchuk said if people want to help the Ukrainian military in their efforts against the Russians, they can donate through the Come Back Alive Foundation.

Yaroshchuk’s father remains in Ukraine — all men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been banned from leaving the country since the start of the war.

“It’s a terrible war, with people dying and suffering there,” Nguyen said. “People forget how lucky we are to live in America – to have to live hand to mouth and forget that there are human beings in another country who are suffering – and I can’t forget that. ”

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