October 07, 2022

Ukrainian Woman Reunited With Family After Being Released From Immigration Detention

Source: WMAQ 5 NBC Chicago


A woman escaping the war in Ukraine who was detained without explanation in Chicago earlier this year has been reunited with family members after months of waiting and uncertainty.

Inna Antoniak was released from a Kansas City-area immigration detention facility in late September, more than two months after she was detained by ICE agents at O'Hare International Airport.

"First I heard crying, and it was my aunt," Vitalina Olevych, Antoniak's aunt, recounted learning of her release. "She was saying they're releasing her. The officer was saying he needs the address she'll be staying at... I think I was in shock. A lot I didn't process."

Olevych told NBC 5 detainees at the facility weren't taken outside, Antoniak wasn't able to get immediate health assistance, and there was no one who could speak Ukrainian.

Antoniak had a certified sponsor and federal paperwork to enter the U.S., so, it remains unclear why she was held for so long with no answers.

"I was told that it was because they didn't know what to do with her," Olevych said.

Finally, on Sept. 29, Inna arrived at O'Hare, where she was reunited with loved ones.

"I’m happy, very grateful for all the angels that have been by my side," her niece said.

Olevych told NBC 5 she believes that some of those angels are in U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth's office, which assisted family in securing Antoniak's release.

"This was not someone who needed to be detained," Duckworth told NBC 5. "This was someone who needed to be with family."

Antoniak can't work or do much without an ID or passport, and for now, will live with family in Chicago. Duckworth's office has promised to help Antoniak get her paperwork back in order.