Ukrainian real estate broker in Chicago seeking asylum for family fleeing invasion

Svitlana Creadon came to Chicago 15 years ago

Chicago /
Feb.February 28, 2022 05:39 PM

Svitlana Creadon (LinkedIn)

Svitlana Creadon, a Ukrainian-American who has spent five years helping Chicagoans find homes as a broker at Compass, has a deeply personal assignment: getting her mother and sister to the U.S.

Her mother and sister made it to Romania after a harrowing three days’ journey by car. Men between 18 and 60 aren’t allowed to leave. Creadon’s father, Mykhaylo Tsyuro, who is 61, could have left, but chose to stay and fight for his country. He’ll be stationed for overnight shifts at a checkpoint nearby his town of Kosiv.

“My dad is a teacher,’’ Creadon said. “He had a long career in academia, and is a historian, a philosopher. For him to really grab a gun and say, ‘I will not leave my country and stay until the very end,’ he’s not a hero by any means. But this is what it takes from people with education and intelligence: To get the courage to fight.”

Creadon’s story is a microcosm of the struggles faced by expat Ukrainians in the U.S. trying to help their families back home. She is among more than 50,000 Ukrainian-Americans in the Chicago area, the second-highest population in the U.S. after New York.

She was on a call with her sister Oksana Tsyuro last week as she heard an explosion and her sister described seeing smoke rising into the sky. Tsyuro was in Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine. The explosion was at an airport that was struck at the start of the conflict by a Russian missile, according to independent observers.

Creadon’s sister then went to her parents’ town, Kosiv, from where she and their mother Maria left for Romania.

“It took them three-and-a-half days to get through the Romanian border. Just imagine to be in the car for that long,” Creadon said in an interview. “It’s really mentally tough.”

Her sister, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, left behind several businesses, and Creadon is now trying to help her apply for asylum so she can come to Chicago. Her mother was given permission by U.S. authorities to visit years ago, after Creadon arrived here, but she said it is more difficult to get siblings into the country.

“She had to leave everything. She had a bunch of employees and had to leave everything,” Creadon said. “To say, ‘I’m going to start everything over,’ and start in someone else’s country when you’re 32 and don’t know the language, it can be really shocking. I have hope that [the war] is going to end pretty soon. I think it’s up to the Russian people. There needs to be a revolution to overthrow Putin.”

Chicago’s metropolitan area is home to 54,000 Ukrainian Americans, with only New York having a larger presence in the United States, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Roughly 200,000 Americans of Ukrainian descent live in Illinois, according to Illinois Public Media.

Ukrainians have been emigrating to the Chicago area for more than a century. Immigration to Chicago from Ukraine has come in surges that started in the 1880s and continued during World War II, and then after the fall of the former Soviet Union.





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