Rancho Santa Fe’s Natalie Moores Helps Displaced Ukrainians
Meet the San Diego attorney leading efforts to help displaced Ukrainian Families here in San Diego
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine this past February, scenes of devastation play out daily on newscasts, in newspapers, and over the internet, bringing the far away war right into our living rooms. For Rancho Santa Fe resident Natalie Moores, the conflict is especially personal. Born in Ukraine, she immigrated to the United States when she was 18, leaving friends and family behind, including her father, Oleksandr. When the bombs began to fall, she urged him to flee. At first, her father resisted because he was helping to put a roof on a church and wanted to complete the job, but eventually he relented. Moores helped to fly her father to safety in Mexico City and then over the Tijuana border into the United States.
“Every morning, I wake up and my first thought is: My dad is here, he is safe,” she says. “Everything else, I can handle.” But her father, although grateful for support, misses his homeland, and even though he is 71, wants to return to Ukraine to fight.
In the early months of the war, drawing on her experience as an attorney and investment banker, Moores was instrumental in bringing an estimated 20,000 Ukrainian refugees to the United States. Working with the House of Ukraine, the Maya Relief Foundation, Jewish Family Services, the Mormon Church, other churches, and community groups, Moores and scores of volunteers provided food, shelter, toiletries, clothing, cash, and transportation.
“When your heart is raw from the pain of watching the peaceful civilian neighborhoods, schools, museums indiscriminately bombed and destroyed, the healing power of community support is incredible,” she reflects. “We had thousands of women and kids arriving with less than a carry-on bag, in their winter clothes and snow boots, which they had been wearing for many weeks through refugee shelters in Europe, Mexico City, Tijuana, and now arriving in San Diego. They literally needed everything…and San Diego answered the call.”
While most of the refugees have reconnected with family members living in other parts of the United States, about 2,000 women and children are beginning new lives in San Diego County.
“Unlike most refugee movements before, most of them are mothers, children, and the elderly, and finding them safe places to live is a priority,” Moores explains. “In Ukraine, the men aren’t allowed to leave the country if they are under 60 years old, with very few exceptions. This has created one of the most vulnerable groups in need of assistance, and unfortunately severely underserved in terms of available public benefits.”
Moores now runs Project Welcome Ukraine, a local initiative which creates micro-communities in parts of San Diego County by securing two- to three-bedroom housing units that are close by. “Ukrainian families can assist and support each other, share transportation, watch each other’s kids, and drive them to school,” Moores says. “We also assist with cars for these families, which is a vital necessity in order for them to survive and become independent.” Her daughter Allison, a ninth grader at The Bishop’s School, searches for free furniture and other household items online and in the community to fill the apartments and make them livable. Donations of working cars are also appreciated.
The project was made possible by a $1 million donation from Rancho Santa Fe’s Jeanne Herberger. “I hope others will join me in supporting these brave wives and mothers who are trying to survive while their husbands fight for their country,” says Herberger.
As the holidays approach, Moores’ beloved homeland is always on her mind. “Throughout this incredibly difficult time, I have been so proud of the brave Ukrainian men and women who have stepped up to the challenge of defending their country, not only for themselves, but on behalf of Europe and the rest of the world. What happens in Ukraine will define the future of the free world. Our victory will not only curb Russia’s power, but it will also weaken other dictatorships whose leaders are watching this war closely. I pray for victory and know that with the world’s love and support, Ukraine will rebuild itself into a strong and beautiful European country,” she says.
To make a donation to Project Welcome Ukraine, call 858.243.7772 or visit projectwelcomeukraine.org. The Maya Relief Foundation is also accepting donations to provide cash grants through its Ukrainian Family Initiative. 858.779.4510, helpaukrainianfamily.com