16,000-plus Ukrainian refugees in Washington state get lawmakers’ attention

Gildon, Braun, honorary Ukrainian consul to lead ‘listening session’ with refugees, community leaders

Download the flier

OLYMPIA – Washington put out the welcome mat last year when war broke out in the Ukraine.

Now lawmakers say the more than 16,000 Ukrainian refugees who heard the state’s call deserve Washington’s attention. They have set a ‘listening session’ Aug. 29 in Tacoma to hear from Ukrainian refugees and community leaders. Doing the listening will be Sens. John Braun, R-Centralia and Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, Honorary Consul of Ukraine Valeriy V. Goloborodko and other invited guests.

“Ukrainian Refugees: Sharing Stories, Shaping Solutions,” will be held 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Life Christian Church, 5315 29th St. NE, Tacoma.

Gildon, who organized the public forum, is inviting lawmakers, elected officials and anyone with an interest in the state’s fastest-growing ethnic minority.

“When war began, the people of Washington opened their hearts and their doors,” Gildon said. “The influx has been so large that we saw news reports this summer warning that state support could run short. We’re holding this listening session so we can find out what the experience has been so far, and where state and local governments might help.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Gildon obtained an amendment to the state budget on the Senate floor providing $19 million in assistance to Ukrainian refugees. The measure established a $5.5 million grant program for local governments, and provided another $13.4 million for housing, job training, legal support, school programs and physical and mental health services.

Population concentrations have been heavy in Pierce and Snohomish counties. Gildon said he wanted to hold the listening session in a location allowing as many people as possible to be heard.

“Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Washington state has welcomed over 20,000 temporary displaced people from Ukraine,” said Consul Goloborodko. “Support from the people of Washington state and leadership of the state is tremendous, and it is uniting. We appreciate the bipartisan support that has been shown in the past and continues to be provided for the values and principles of freedom Ukrainians are putting down their lives for. Value of human dignity and life should not have borders and America, as the leader of the democratic world, is doing the right thing helping Ukraine protect freedom and democracy.

The meeting will use a format focused on public comment. An interpreter will be available.

“As people tell us their stories, we’ll be thinking about what that means in terms of state support, and possible legislation for 2024,” Gildon said. “Washington believes in doing the right thing. This state has a long tradition of assisting refugees. And now that they’re here, it’s time for us to listen.”