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From left to right, Anatonaly, Alberto Refugio Gonzalez, and Sergey. From left, Anatonaly, Alberto Refugio Gonzalez, and Sergey. Screenshot

Tulum businessman creates shelter for Ukrainian refugees

The outbreak of the war left vacationing Ukrainians stranded in Mexico

A businessman in Tulum has opened the doors of his ranch to Ukrainian refugees.

After Alberto Refugio González managed to get his ex-wife and son out of Ukraine, he decided to extend his help to Ukrainians stranded in Mexico.

A small three-story building formerly used as offices on the Tulum-Valladolid highway, surrounded by ducks, turkeys and chickens, has become the temporary home of Sergey and Anatonaly. The first people to take González up on his offer, they are being given food, water and a place to sleep. They wash their clothes in buckets and are waiting to have an internet connection to call their families.

In their suitcases they have all their belongings: four t-shirts, two pairs of shoes, a pair of shorts and a souvenir of the pyramids of the Teotihuacán ruins near Mexico City.

The two friends arrived in Mexico on February 19 before Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of their homeland on February 24. They were unable to find flights home and despite assurances by the Ukrainian Embassy in Mexico that they could fly to Paris, they were not permitted to board for unknown reasons.

“I came to Mexico on vacation on February 19 and in the following days the situation began. In those days, my vacation ended … It’s hard to say how I feel because it’s hard to explain. I don’t know what to tell you, I’m safe in Mexico but my family is in Ukraine and it’s very dangerous,” Sergey said.

Anatonaly said that despite the war, they would both prefer to return to Ukraine to be with their families. “It’s beautiful, but I don’t know what to do in this country. If I have the opportunity I will return to Ukraine,” he said.

González said his family’s struggle to leave Ukraine motivated him to provide assistance to Ukrainians in Mexico.

“My son and his mother left the first town. Then they fought to get a place on the train because the trains were no longer letting people on … they got taken to the border town. It was very difficult, that’s where the humanitarian crisis is really happening,” he said.

“We published the offer to provide accommodation in a [social media] group of Ukrainians in Mexico … because we saw that many people are stranded in Cancun, in Los Cabos and in Vallarta. All over the place tourists who came on vacation were not able to leave,” González added.

Since February 24, more than 3 million Ukrainians have left their country as refugees, according to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The Foreign Ministry and the air force have helped Mexicans and their families escape Ukraine. So far, at least 143 people have been evacuated from the war-torn country, the newspaper Milenio reported.

With reports from Milenio

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