Parade, gifts and encouragement welcome family who fled Ukraine to La Jolla
To welcome members of her family to La Jolla who fled Ukraine with nothing but a medium-size suitcase, a local woman started gathering supplies and gift cards via social media and among friends. But the effort grew with every person who got involved.
By the time the family arrived, an “amazing” amount of supplies had come in and a small parade was held to greet them.
It all began when Albina Kisanova of Albina Browtique on Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla went next door to the Little Love children’s clothing store to see if she could buy a stroller and/or car seat for the arrival of her stepmother, sister and 3-year-old niece.
“I don’t carry car seats, but I asked why she needed them,” said Little Love owner Lindsey Fisher. “Albina said her family was coming from Ukraine ... with very little.”
The family arrived in the United States through Tijuana after stays in Moldova, Romania and the Czech Republic after escaping the war in Ukraine. By that point, the stroller they had was not in good condition.
“Some people left with nothing. My family was lucky that their homes were not bombed,” Kisanova said. “But it was not safe, so they needed to leave.”
Though Fisher didn’t have the things Kisanova needed, she still wanted to help. So she reached out to friends and others through social media.
“I got hundreds of messages from people wanting to help,” Fisher said. “People sent me money via Venmo, people offered to buy a new car seat, others offered me gift cards and store credit.”
Others bought clothes and shoes for the stepmother and sister and toys for the child from larger retailers and had them shipped to Little Love.
La Jolla artist Margo Palmer believes “art is uplifting.”
The family lives with Kisanova in The Village, so they didn’t need items like furniture, but they were ready to accept gift cards and basic supplies to get them started.
The family members are getting settled and were unavailable for comment.
Fisher’s mother, Mary Sue Lindsay, a resident of La Jolla’s White Sands retirement community, watched all this unfold and also wanted to help.
“A lot of people from White Sands came to America as immigrants and they remembered those that helped them,” Lindsay said. “Everyone was horrified by the news [of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] and wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do.”
Lindsay told residents that gift cards for local businesses (so the family could walk to them) and companies that deliver were being accepted and that there would be a parade at White Sands to welcome the family. The envelopes from the residents to the family were sealed, so it isn’t known how much was collected.
“They were so happy to support this family that needed some love,” said White Sands senior activities director Pat Guerrero.
As a car carrying the family passed through, the residents lined an alleyway, waving Ukrainian flags and handing out sunflowers (the national flower of Ukraine).
“It was so beautiful watching everyone respond so positively. ... People felt so much joy from helping others.”
— Mary Sue Lindsay, White Sands resident
“The most touching part was that one of our residents visited Ukraine years ago and bought Ukrainian eggs [ornately decorated in a traditional way] and gave them to the family,” Guerrero said. “Another is a refugee from Germany and let the family know they weren’t alone in the community of La Jolla.”
Lindsay said the White Sands residents “wanted to physically hand them something and offer words of welcome. It was so beautiful watching everyone respond so positively. It was much more of a response than I was expecting. ... It was overwhelming. People felt so much joy from helping others.”
Fisher added that the outpouring of support has been “incredible” and that she had no idea when the effort started that it would get so big.
“I know people want to help, but it was amazing to see people provide ... something they can use that goes directly to the family to make their lives better,” she said. “The community of La Jolla really rallied for this family. It’s been so neat to witness.”
Kisanova has lived in La Jolla for almost 20 years and said she has seen the community’s generosity. But it came as a shock to her relatives.
“They are amazed by the graciousness of this community,” Kisanova said. “They didn’t know how to accept these gifts; they were almost uncomfortable about it. But I assured them that people want to help.”
As for right now, they just need time to settle, Kisanova said. “If they feel like this is their new home, I’ll support them. But if they want to go back after the war, I won’t stop them. It’s just one thing at a time right now.” ◆
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