TOPEKA (KSNT) – The war in Ukraine has displaced millions of people including many women and children. Now, two Topeka women are doing their part to help refugees find a new home here in Kansas.

Yana Ross and Luda Karnes live in Topeka but drove down to Mexico to a refugee camp to pick up families they volunteered to let live with them. The women said once they found out there was a way to help, they jumped on the opportunity.

“The reality is really, really bad there,” Karnes said over zoom.

Karnes’ sister, three nieces and mother live back in Ukraine. She says the reality of the Russian invasion is devastating for families who call the country home.

“I heard about this little town not far from Kyiv where Russian troops came in and they just-just murdered civilians…and women and children,” Karnes said. “It was awful…so we knew that we really had to do something to help our families.”

Karnes and Ross bought them flights from Ukraine, loaded up on a 15 passenger van, and traveled to a Ukrainian refugee camp in Tijuana Mexico to meet them. Thousands of families are staying at the camp, waiting to make the journey across the border to the U.S. — making the best of their new circumstances.

Yana’s friend from college, her two children and her mom are coming to live with her in Topeka. She detailed how hard it’s been since the war started more than a month ago.

“It’s heartbreaking. She has a four-year-old and 7-year-old and they need school,” Ross said. “They need more stability. You know the regular is just hard not to be able to do regular things.”

Ross says they’re focusing on the gift of safety and being together in the U.S.

“It’s been a challenge for them. I mean it’s not an easy trip to take but it’s hope,” Ross said.

Ross, Karnes and their family and friends were waiting at the refugee camp on Thursday night for their names to be called for the bus that will take them across the border. They’re hoping to return to Topeka by the end of the weekend.

Refugees like these families are being provided humanitarian parole from the Department of Homeland Security. It allows them to temporarily enter the U.S. and apply for employment authorization but is not a way to lawful immigration status.