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Ukrainian Family Finds Refuge

 March 22, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Matt Hoffman in for Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday March 22nd.>>>>

A Ukrainian family finds safety in San Diego More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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San Diego County will have a new interim sheriff after today.. The board of supervisors is meeting to pick who will temporarily fill the vacancy left by former sheriff Bill Gore. Two former deputies and the current assistant sheriff are contending for the job. Whoever gets it will run the department until a new sheriff is chosen by voters in the upcoming primary election.

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The city of San Diego is approving hundreds of requests for covid-19 vaccine exemptions.. The city made vaccinations a condition of employment last year and 90 percent of staff since have gotten it done.. Monday the city announced it is in the process of granting 790 religious and medical exemptions.. Those with exemptions will have to be regularly tested for COVID. There were just over two dozen requests that were denied. There are some city employees who are facing termination for not complying with the vaccination requirement.

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High temperatures are expected today through Thursday.. That’s a quick turn around from rain over the weekend. Forecasters say temperatures should be 10 to 15 degrees above seasonal norms for many coastal and inland locations. The combination of enhanced offshore

winds and very warm temperatures could lead to elevated fire weather conditions

today through Thursday.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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As far away as the Ukraine war might be… there are refugees who have found their way to safety here in San Diego. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez shares the story of a Ukrainian teacher who fled the war with her three children

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Olga koe-VAL-chook speaks 5 languages and is a teacher and translator back in her hometown of Cherkasy, Ukraine. Now she’s a kindergarten teacher to her six-year-old son roose-LAN…using internet lessons and wifi in this Carmel Valley kitchen.

CG: Olga Kovalchuk/Ukrainian Refugee

SOT 16:37:54-16:38:02 “Now we don’t go to any school here. I would like my children permitted to school as quickly as possible and to adapt.”

Olga koe-VAL-chook speaks 5 languages and was a translator back in her hometown of Cherkasy, Ukraine.

Olga fled Ukraine with three of her children, her father, brother, and their families. The other family members made it to Los Angeles while Olga and her kids made it here to San Diego County …traveling 64-hundred miles anything to get away from the war and the prison of their basement.

SOT (Olga) 6547 16:39:49-16:40:00 “some basements in Ukraine are equipped with wifi…some of the only possibilities to learn sitting in the basement.”

Her family is now living with Carolyn and Zak O’Neill in their 4-bedroom house in Carmel Valley. The O’Neills are empty-nesters with two grown children and extra space they were happy to share with refugees on the run to safety.

CG: Zak O’Neill/Host Family

SOT 6528 16:14:31-16:14:40 “It’s just nice having the little kids and Max in the house and just trying to find them ….never going to be a normal routine again, I don’t believe…but just to bring some normalcy.”

CG: Carolyn O’Neill/Host Family

SOT 6528 16:16:29-16:16:35 “It’s not just us everybody wants to help we just need to find how to do it …you know in a loving way.”

SOUNDBREAK -swinging at the park

Olga’s oldest son, Max, is 15 years old. He speaks English and is doing his best to adapt. His 9-year old sister Sophia is missing. The day they fled, she was with her father and did not make it to the Ukrainian border in time.

CG: Max Kovalchuk/Ukrainian Refugee

SOT 6544 16:26;34-16:26:45 “I miss my friends, I miss Ukraine, but now I’m not in danger…my family in safety…in safety.”

The family will stay with the O’Neills temporarily …Olga’s next goal is her children’s education…then she needs to find a job…

SOT (Olga) 6547 16:34:13-16:34:26 “I can’t predict tomorrow’s day because the situation can change rapidly and tragically…we believe in God and I hope everything will be Ok…we just pray.”

Two families …and faith…will help make this home for now. MGP ….KPBS News.

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It’s been two-years since Title 42 was implemented. It’s a controversial Trump-era policy that blocks asylum at the border. KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis says activists in San Diego and Tijuana are calling for it to be revoked.

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Title 42 was first implemented in March 2020 by the Trump administration. It allows officials to use the pandemic as justification for turning away asylum seekers at the southern border.

But most pandemic restrictions along the border have now been lifted. Activists are calling for an end to the policy, which has kept thousands of vulnerable migrants from getting a fair hearing for their asylum cases.

Lindsay Toczylowski (Tozlozky) is the executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

MATT 2981_01 18:04:14:01

Lindsay Toczylowski | Immigrant Defenders Law Center

“Today, the US government continues to unlawfully expel individuals and families with absolutely no due process.”

More recently, border officials have exempted Ukrainian war refugees from Title 42.

Toczylowski says migrants from Central America and the Caribbean deserve the same exemptions.

MATT 2981_01 18:09:11:01

“I think we know that there has been a systematic blocking of black and brown asylum seekers at the border and that is the root of Title 42.”

Lilian Serrano is the co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. She says Title 42 perpetuates stereotypes that certain immigrants are a public health threat.

MATT 2986_01 18:21:11:16

Lilian Serrano | Southern Border Communities Coalition

“More than a year of the now Biden-Harris administration we continue to see this racist notion that black and brown immigrants, asylum seekers are bringing disease across the border.”

Serrano is among many who say the continuation of Title 42 is an example of the Biden administration failing to fulfill a campaign promise to make our immigration system more humane.

MATT 2986_01 18:22:39:07

“All of us remember that part of the camping promise of the Biden-Harris administration was to restore asylum. To bring back humanity and dignity to our immigration system. We don’t see that.”

Gustavo Solis KPBS News

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UNION GROCERY WORKERS HAVE BEGUN VOTING ON WHETHER TO AUTHORIZE A STRIKE AGAINST RALPHS, VONS AND ALBERTSONS …

THE COMPANIES ARE OFFERING A PAY INCREASE OF SIXTY CENTS AN HOUR EACH YEAR FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS. WORKERS SAY THE PROPOSAL IS AN INSULT CONSIDERING WHAT WORKERS HAVE FACED IN THE PAST TWO YEARS.

TODD WALTERS IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS LOCAL 135.

GROCERYSTRIKE 2A (0:08) “THESE EMPLOYERS, RALPHS, VONS, ALBERTSON'S, HAVE MADE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OFF THE PANDEMIC AND IT'S TIME TO SHARE WITH THE WORKERS.”

HE SAYS WITH THE MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE, SOME WORKERS WITH 10 TO 20 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE ARE MAKING AS LITTLE AS $2 AN HOUR MORE THAN NEWLY HIRED EMPLOYEES.

THE STRIKE AUTHORIZATION VOTE CONTINUES IN SAN DIEGO THROUGH tomorrow (WEDNESDAY). VOTING CONTINUES IN OTHER SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COUNTIES UNTIL this weekend.

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Coming up.... What does the new normal mean when it comes to our jobs? More on how the pandemic has impacted the workplace just after the break.

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A NEW SURVEY SAYS THE PACE OF DEPLOYMENT DURING THE PANDEMIC HAS STRAINED MILITARY FAMILIES. KPBS MILITARY REPORTER STEVE WALSH SAYS CHILDCARE AND UNEMPLOYMENT ARE AMONG THE TOP ISSUES.

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The last couple of years have been challenging for nearly everyone, but military families have their own lingering difficulties which often go unnoticed by the rest of the community. Kathy Roth-Douquet is CEO of Blue Star Families. They advocate for military families. She says Guard and reserves have been stretched thin,,

Kathy Roth-Douquet/ CEO of Blue Star Families

GMT20220321-180112_Recording.MP4 5:36

“They've gone to help with clean up for COVID or helping to build hospitals. They've gone to the southern border, we even have the Guard substitute teaching school in New Mexico because COVID it has closed down too many schools. You got wildfires. The guard is more deployed than at any time since World War II and many of the many American citizens just don't know that.”

Each year the group surveys military families. fall out from deployments were the top two concerns among Guard and reserves. The pandemic made it particularly difficult for spouses to find work, especially if they changed bases.

“We need to solve the childcare issues. You got to the bottom of the waiting list every time you move. You've got a nine month waiting list and then you're in town for six more months, and then you move again. You're at the bottom of that 9 month waiting list every time you move and that's no good, we need better ways to help people around that problem.”

Some of the ideas to get around that is to hold spaces at child care centers for military families. And sailors, soldiers and Marines are still required to move, despite the economy.

GMT20220321-180112_Recording.MP4 11:18

“The financial trends have gotten much worse and a lot of that is because of COVID. COVID has been a real financial harm for military families. That and the fact that inflation and housing is going up, so when you're forced to move as you are with the military into higher and higher place areas where there may not be housing stock because we stopped building houses during the pandemic, we have military families living in our RV’s and pop up trailers.”

(I kept it tight. You might be able to linger on her after the trax, or you can pull out early and just use shots of troops and families)

Even so, the Blue Star survey suggests job satisfaction remains high among troops and their families. Steve Walsh KPBS News.

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For many people, the pandemic has changed where or how they work. KPBS’s Maya Trabulsi talked with people at a local staffing agency to see how lessons learned from the pandemic are being applied at their office, and in the workforce at large.

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FLEXWORK (4:06) SOQ

NAT: plane flying in.

It’s all in the name. Manpower.

And their administrative office in Banker’s Hill is seeing more people-power than it has in the last 2 pandemic years. Until recently, a majority of the staff has worked on a hybrid or remote work model.

Executive officer Phil Blair says the company is starting to figure out how that could be applied post-pandemic.

6461 12:19:33.09 BLAIR

A pandemic is a terrible thing to waste. There's some good things that have come out of that. We can work remote two or three days a week and we can have flexible schedules. It's not eight to five.

Author of “Job Won” and a bi-weekly column for the San Diego Union Tribune, Blair writes about workforce trends and corporate culture. He says since we are in a candidate’s market it would behoove a company to strike a reasonable balance for its employees.

6460

11:53:29.15 BLAIR

I think any company that says every employee has to be in here eight to five, Monday to Friday is going to have a very difficult time keeping their employees and attracting new ones, because we've seen the other side of the fence and profound flexibility in our industry.

For Manpower Staffing, Blair says he doesn’t want to offer a cookie cutter approach, instead choosing to be flexible to individual needs, as well as the needs of the company - for their culture, that does include some face-to-face time.

6460 11:53:57.27 BLAIR

Now, in our case, what we're thinking is Wednesdays. Then on Wednesdays, we ask everyone to be in the office so accounting can talk to marketing, marketing can talk to payroll. And food is a great attraction…

Just past a set of swinging restaurant-style doors the office kitchen is furnished with comforts of home like lounging armchairs, free snacks, and a cozy fireplace.

6454 MOREL

11:31:52 “Even though people work remote, Fridays they come in for the food.”

Office Manager Colette Morel chose colorful details to make it feel homey for those who DO come in. And office staff take the time to cook and eat together on those communal days.

6454 MOREL

11:32:45 “We have desserts all the time, I love to make desserts.”

11:32:48.14 “Do you get to work from home, too? No. Do you wish that you did? Sometimes.”

Morel also manages the building, which means her job requires her to be on site.

6454 MOREL

11:33:12.01“I have been here every day during COVID, so I have never worked from home.”

She says being one of very few employees in the office meant fewer interruptions and more productivity.

AR specialist Joanna Walls, says fewer interruptions is why she prefers working away from the office.

6481 12:49:33.07 WALLS

If you could choose between working at home, or working in an office

What would you choose? (whispers) “Home.”

This is her second day at Manpower. Her last job required her to work from home full time. At Manpower, she will be driving in from Oceanside 2 days per week, which she thinks strikes a good balance - especially considering drive time and the price of gas.

(She says preparing for work and commuting both ways can take 4 hours per day, on top of her regular 8 hours of work.) Roland - i would rather keep this but can be removed for time.

6481 12:48:17.15 WALLS

If the company is supporting that and then it also saves cost as well for them and for you. I think it's a win win.

((((6460 11:54:36.14 BLAIR

I want you in everyday. Well, boss, why? Well, that's how I've done it for 20 or 30 years.)))) OPTIONAL

When employees are asked to come in, Phil Blair says there needs to be a reason for it and not just because that’s the way things were done pre-pandemic.

6460 11:57:08.28 BLAIR

And then use that time together productively. Everybody goes into the cubicle, closes the door, comes out at five or 530. That's not a reason.

And finding a balance between nurturing the corporate culture and maintaining work-life balance could be delicate, but something, Blair says, is worth exploring.

6461 12:16:17.06 BLAIR

Are they doing a good job? Are they doing the work? Is there good communication? Okay, take a breath and try it or you're going to lose that employee because they will find an opportunity of a company that will do it.

And in a job market that boasts more jobs than workers, the choice between prioritizing career over family has become a less necessary one.

6462 12:21:44.19 BLAIR

And in this market, eyes wide open, there is lots of opportunities for good people to go somewhere else. (END ON B-ROLL so his lips don’t move)

6461 12:16:58.15 And if you have valuable employees, which I hope you do, don't make rules that says everybody has to do the exact same policy because they're at different stages in their life.

Maya Trabulsi, KPBS News.

Coming up, San Diego REP is hosting its second annual Black Voices Reading Series, which is serving up 4 new plays.

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San Diego Rep is gearing up for its 2nd Annual Black Voices Reading Series. The series seeks out work that serves up a diverse range of Black stories and playwrights. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando spoke with two of this year’s playwrights about their work.

SDREP (ba) 4:10

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Darren Canady says storytelling is in his genes.

DARREN CANADY…My dad was hilarious because what he used to say about my mom's side of the family, he'd say, Linda can't nobody in your family just tell a story? A story that would normally take two minutes for other people takes 20 years for your family…That's how I grew up understanding what storytelling was. Storytelling was never for just reporting just the facts ma'am.

Having something in your genes is also at the core of his play Reparations, which is part of the 2022 San Diego REP Black Voices Play Reading Series.

DARREN CANADY …it imagines a time in which we have developed a technology that allows people to access their blood memories. And so the main character, Rory, takes up the state of Oklahoma on an offer that if you can use this new technology to prove that your ancestors were the victims of state sponsored violence, that the government of Oklahoma will provide Reparations…the piece really explores Midwestern racial identity, how legacy can actually be experienced in a visceral way, perhaps even written into our genes.

Rory’s grandmother shares her feelings in this scene.

CLIP Let me learn you something, getting all caught up in who did what way back when is a losing battle because for Black folks, yesterday is always just a little bit darker than today.Baby whatever life you live that is the history you got.

Canady says he wanted to look at more than just generational trauma.

DARREN CANADY What does it look like to thrive? What does it look like to actually have not just trauma, but also have dreams passed down?

The play Reparations employs elements of AfroFuturism.

DARREN CANADY … Afro futurism, amongst the many things that it does, says that racialized reality and cultural specificity has a place in our imagination and it has a place in how we view the future and that we need to think about cultural specificity in that way, particularly obviously, blackness…Our notion of temporality should be made complex. It's not linear. We loop back, we circle in and we Zoom forward and we swing back, and we can touch in sort of spiritual and soul ways those things that maybe our ancestors touched and dreamed. And we might be carrying that with us.

For playwright Marti Gobel, food is the DNA that ties one generation to the next. So the family dining room table provides the starting point for her play.

MARTI GOBEL …So the play Food Day is a play in five courses. You have breakfast, lunch, appetizers dinner, and a snack with the family as they talk about a big decision that is going to affect them all that is moving from the Midwest to San Francisco so that the mother can work with maximum security inmates and teach them how to cook.

CLIP If I was in jail I wouldn’t try to eat fast food and soup…

MARTI GOBEL I really wanted the talking about food to lead to bigger universal truths on tasting and danger, and on trying new things, and understanding your palate and all of that.

Trying new things is what the Rep’s Black Voices Play Reading Series is all about. For Gobel it provides an opportunity to fine tune her latest play.

MARTI GOBEL …I'm kind of fascinated to watch what happens with my words and to know that there's 100 different ways to say the same thing. I tend to track where the humor works for myself and where actors get tongue tied on things.

Canady agrees.

DARREN CANADY…Actors in this reading are always giving you information, even when they are not explicitly thinking that they are, lines that they stumble over or lines where they perk up.

Canady perks up at the opportunity offered by the REP to bring marginalized voices and new work to the fore.

DARREN CANADY because that's how we keep theater alive, and that's how we make sure that live performance is speaking to our moment, speaking to audiences now and putting them in a place where they can speak across time and space, which is important.

For audiences, the readings will be like listening to a radio show because it’s just actors performing the lines without any props or production design. But that’s fine with Gobel.

MARTI GOBEL…the best story is often just an actor speaking in a very simple costume and engaging with a group of people.

But since her play was designed to have food being cooked on stage she suggests that folks warm up some soup and make a grilled cheese sandwich before sitting down and listening to Food Day.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org.. Our website and on 89.5 FM is where you can find live coverage of this week’s supreme court nomination hearings.. I’m Matt Hoffman. Thanks for being here with us, have a great Tuesday and we'll see you tomorrow.

A Ukrainian teacher and her three children are safe in San Diego after fleeing the war with Russia. Grocery workers have begun voting on whether to authorize a strike against Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons stores. A new survey finds the pace of deployment during the pandemic has strained military families.