Taras Melnychenko

Three years ago Taras applied for political asylum, after immigrating to the United States to attend graduate school. He is still waiting for his asylum application to process. With a pending immigration status, Taras is unable to travel outside of the U.S. to see his family. He prepares borscht every week to maintain a connection to his mom and his home country. Taras currently lives in San Francisco, California and grew up in Kiev, Ukraine.

Once a week, Taras visits a small, Eastern European market to source the right ingredients. He then spends a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing his mom’s traditional borscht recipe from scratch. “Somehow I just have this passion for borscht cooking,” says Taras. He remembers helping his mother make the soup, and it became a tradition for them, and a reminder of home.

Nearly three years ago, realizing it wasn’t safe to return to Ukraine, Taras applied for political asylum. “In Ukraine, there’sa huge clash between government, army, and Russia. There’s just a complete mess. The best way to describe it is to say there are threats from every direction coming at you. Whether it’s Russia, whether it’s the government, military forces, police. My mom has accepted that it’s better for me to be 10,000 miles away from her, but be safe, and in a place that I could potentially have a future, than to be 100 miles away from her and not have that.”

Taras works at a startup in downtown San Francisco as a Digital Marketing Manager. In 2015, he graduated with an MBA and a concentration in Marketing. Though he submitted his asylum application years ago, Taras is still waiting for an interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the next step in the process. With a pending status, he would need a special permit to travel outside of the U.S.

“I saw my mom recently, but she isn’t really going to be able to visit anymore, due to her health. My mom has problems with her health, heart problems,” Taras said.  “I’ve been trying to get advance parole to go meet her in Europe, somewhere like Poland or Germany where she can travel via train. I applied for that but they can’t issue it for more than a one-time event, and it takes several months to review. In Ukraine, life is very family-based. If you do not see your family every few months, then here is something wrong.”

Taras has worked to build a community in San Francisco. When he isn’t working, he likes to play tennis, race go-karts, host movie nights for his group of friends, and cook. If he makes it through the asylum process and becomes a permanent resident, Taras will be able to visit his family in Ukraine again, while continuing to make a life in the U.S.

“Here I can work, I can grow my business, I can do what I want with my life. No matter where I am, I’m hopeful that in the end I’ll have a happy family and kids, and raise good human beings. That’s what’s important to me.”


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