Jackson resident helps Ukrainian families escape the war

Published: May. 29, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Jackson man has been working to help refugees escape the war in Ukraine.

It’s been 94 days since thousands of Ukrainians were first displaced from their homes due to Russia invading parts of the country.

Kristina Rybalka and her family were among that number.

“We’re sitting and thinking, ‘okay, if it’s true, what we can do next? We understand that we will go, but are there bombs and at any moment,’” Rybalka said.

That’s when Jackson resident, Matthew Bataille, stepped in.

After meeting several families in Ukraine through mission trips, personal travel, and studying in the region years before, he knew he couldn’t just sit and watch his friends struggle.

“We started communicating right away, just sharing information. So I’d be online late at night, digging up information, okay, here’s what’s happening on the borders, here’s where refugees are going, here’s where aid is,” Bataille explained.

But sharing information wasn’t enough. Bataille said Kristina and her family needed to get out of the country.

“I use modern-day apps to sort of navigate routes, roads, figuring out where points of resources were so they can have stops,” Bataille said.

Several AirBnBs, stops, and checkpoints later and Kristina and her family made it to Spain, where Bataille and his neighbors funded an apartment for them.

“Step by step after the terrible things we find a bed and not now yeah, we can move and understand and relax to understand what we can do next,” Rybalka said.

Now that Kristina and her family are safe, Bataille said he is trying to work with a new group called “Cutting the Red.”

It is a grass-roots organization that helps place Ukrainians in the US with a home, vehicle, and jobs, all by donations and volunteers.

“It’s people every day, ordinary people like you and me, who want to play the part that we’ve been asked to play at whatever level we feel comfortable, and the more people that get involved to me together, we’re better,” co-founder Shane Smith said.

Smith and his wife say they have helped over a hundred families get to the United States from Ukraine, and that’s what they are going to help Bataille do with Kristina and her family.

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