UPDATE 1/25/2023
By Jennifer Iscol


After five months of planning and a perilous journey during Russian bombing, two-year-old Daniel and his parents arrived safely in November from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Boston, Massachusetts, with one suitcase each and hope for the future.

The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California, the National Celiac Association and Mass General for Children’s Center for Celiac Research and Treatment have been working together to assist this family on their journey to safety. After our public outreach to find a U.S. financial sponsor, a kind couple in New Hampshire stepped forward to fill the role, and a couple near Boston is hosting them in their home’s rental apartment for half the cost and sharing their family life.

Daniel is receiving medical care at the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment in Boston. He is laughing again, thriving in his new home and charming everyone he meets. His parents, Kateryna and Alex, are working tirelessly to learn English, navigate challenges and ready themselves for the job market.

It is difficult to convey the inspiring extent to which Executive Director Lee Graham and her team at the National Celiac Association (NCA) responded to our foundation’s request for collaboration to help this family. The NCA meets every need and obstacle with kindness, capability and determination. Susie Flaherty, communications director for the Mass General for Children Center for Celiac Research and Treatment, has skillfully navigated bureaucratic hurdles from Kyiv to Boston and helped set up medical care.

Many generous donors, volunteers and nonprofits have made this effort possible. The impact of a united and dedicated community is heartwarming to witness. 

Kateryna, Alex and their young son Daniel still need our immediate community support at this time of resettlement for rent, transportation and food. Please consider a gift – every dollar is appreciated and makes a difference.


[Original post]
Celiac disease organizations seek U.S. sponsor for Ukrainian boy
September 13, 2022

By Jennifer Iscol and Lee Graham

The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California is working together with the National Celiac Association (NCA) and several Boston-area organizations to help a Ukrainian child come to the United States for medical care and refuge from the war.

Daniel is two years old and has celiac disease. Although celiac disease can be treated and is often well controlled with a strict gluten-free diet, Daniel’s health is still in peril. He is Ukrainian and lives near the capital Kyiv with his parents, Kateryna and Alexander. 

Daniel has been hospitalized multiple times, even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year. The family is in frequent physical danger from the war. Daniel’s complex case requires a specialist in celiac disease care, while scarce medical resources are devoted to treating the wounded. 

The family is seeking a U.S. sponsor to help bring Daniel and his parents to the United States for refuge from the war and to seek medical treatment. Upon arrival in the United States, Daniel’s parents plan for him to be cared for at the Mass General for Children Center for Celiac Research and Treatment in Boston.

As is the case for many Ukrainians, ongoing Russian rocket attacks and street fighting have the family constantly on edge. Sporadic shipments of food from the Polish Coeliac Society have helped nourish Daniel, for which the family is grateful, as Kateryna says her access to gluten-free food is severely diminished.

“Thanks to the outreach efforts of the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California and the National Celiac Association, we became aware of the family’s situation. It is part of our mission to support and educate individuals with celiac disease and their family, including Daniel and his parents who are in a very difficult situation,” says Susie Flaherty, MA, ATR-P, communications director for the Mass General for Children Center for Celiac Research and Treatment. 

Under the U.S. government’s program Uniting for Ukraine, private citizens can make it possible for Ukrainian families to find safety in the United States by becoming their sponsor. Daniel’s parents are hoping to find a sponsor in Massachusetts in order to most directly pursue his treatment at Mass General for Children. A sponsor from California or another state would also work, as the family can travel within the United States after they arrive. (See the box below to learn more about sponsorship.)

Like many Ukrainians, Daniel’s parents lost their jobs after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Under the Uniting for Ukraine program, the family is eligible to apply for health insurance, food assistance and other benefits, as well as employment authorization. The parents are eager to find refuge, stability, volunteer work and ultimately employment in the United States.

The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California learned of Daniel’s case and reached out to its longtime partners in the Boston area, including the National Celiac Association and the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General for Children. The organizations previously worked together to form a Gluten-Free Disaster Relief Task Force and on disaster preparedness following U.S. hurricanes, wildfires and mudslides.

Catholic Charities Boston is another member of our “team” and ready to provide resettlement services, including guidance in applying for a work permit and for benefits such as health insurance and food assistance. Catholic Charities implements a “Welcome Circle” model and provides toolkits to help all the individuals and organizations supporting and assisting a Ukrainian family coordinate their efforts. 


How is the U.S. government helping Ukrainian refugees?

On April 21, 2022, the administration announced Uniting for Ukraine, which allows Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their country to seek refuge in the United States for up to two years. Under the program, Ukrainians are classified as “humanitarian parolees” rather than refugees. While this status streamlines their application and allows them to escape the war more quickly, it makes them ineligible for federal resettlement benefits designated for refugees. This provides a unique opportunity for individuals and the community to step in and help.

What does it mean to become a U.S. sponsor/supporter for Ukrainians fleeing the war?

Individual U.S. residents have an essential role. Ukrainians must rely on the kindness of everyday Americans to enter the country and resettle here. To apply for entry under Uniting for Ukraine, Ukrainians need to find a U.S. sponsor, a private resident who agrees to provide financial support to meet basic needs for two years. Learn more about  becoming a “sponsor” or “supporter” (the terms are used interchangeably) on Welcome.US. More info: USCIS and DHS.

How is the celiac community helping?

We helped match Daniel’s family with a U.S. sponsor and reduced the burden on the sponsor by ensuring that the family and sponsor are assisted by the community with a “Welcome Circle.” The family will need assistance with applying for health insurance, benefits and employment, and general support to settle into life in the United States. We also hope to inspire others and spread the word about how to assist refugees.

How can we help other Ukrainian or Afghan refugees?

If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship of a Ukrainian individual or family or welcoming and assisting Afghan refugees, go to Welcome.US. We are also happy to talk with you about our experience. While we have limited resources and the need can seem overwhelming, working together we can help refugees and provide hope.

Jennifer Iscol, President, Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California
Lee Graham, Executive Director, National Celiac Association

Media Inquiries
Lee Graham lee@nationalceliac.org

Photos: Top and middle: Screenshots from WCVB-TV Channel 5. Bottom: Daniel with his parents Alexander and Kateryna.

Note: A version of the original post is co-published on the National Celiac Association website.