A Fellowship Southwest-backed ministry in Mexico is housing a Russian asylum seeker who fled her country for protesting Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
The organization recently announced that Red de Albergues para Migrante — or the Migrant Shelter Network in English — opened its doors more than two months ago to Elena Nazarova, a 44-year-old nurse fired from her hospital job in the city of Khabarovsk Krai for displaying signs declaring “No to War.”
The network, also known as RAM, is sheltering Nazarova at its Paloma location across the border from Columbus, N.M., while she seeks a humanitarian exemption to Title 42, a COVID-related policy the U.S. has used since 2020 to expel immigrants back to Mexico without due process.
RAM Director Rosalío Sosa, a Mexican pastor and Fellowship Southwest partner, is assisting Nazarova’s efforts to attain asylum in the United States. “She came to the shelter because her sponsor recommended for her to visit the Tierra de Oro shelter in Palomas and look for someone named Rosalío,” Sosa said. “She is currently waiting in Mexico because she wants to do things right for her sponsor.”
Other Russians have tried entering the United States through Mexico on humanitarian parole due to the Russian-Ukraine war, with mixed results. According to news reports, handfuls were quietly allowed into the country in March while others languished. Many of those unable to gain entry were frustrated to see about 20,000 Ukrainians allowed into the United States — a route that has since been closed even to Ukrainians.
But in an interview with The Juárez Diary newspaper in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Nazarova confirmed global media reports about the anti-war protest movement in Russia.
“Not all Russians support the war. There are many people who are against the war in Russia, who think it is criminal. That is why I protested against the war,” she said in the May 31 article.
“Not all Russians support the war. There are many people who are against the war in Russia, who think it is criminal.”
“If you asked me to help Ukraine, I would gladly come to serve you. I have friends in Ukraine, almost everyone in Russia has relatives or friends in Ukraine; it is very difficult for us to understand what the president is doing.”
With thousands of dissenters arrested in Russia and facing 15 years in prison for her protests, Nazarova said she decided to seek asylum in the United States by way of Mexico.
“It was the easiest way because Mexico allows me to spend six months without a visa and that is why I decided to request political asylum in the United States through Mexico. And my sponsor (who will receive her in the United States) told me about Palomas.”
Nazarova admitted she felt lonely and, as a Russian, out of place in a faith-based shelter in Mexico. “Then I met very good people and everyone was very happy with me, very happy and very affectionate, everyone,” the newspaper reported.
Nazarova has been busy while building her case for asylum in the U.S., according to Sosa. “She is helping us paint and clean the new Tierra de Oro shelter in Juárez. She is very willing to serve, as she is a nurse.”
Sosa’s network of 24 shelters spans the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The new facility Nazarova and other migrants helped complete was inaugurated June 2.
“Today a family arrives from Honduras, but the shelter will fit 70 people. Also another family from Michoacán (Mexico) arrives today and four Salvadoran families who were living on the streets in Monterrey (Mexico) will arrive on Saturday,” Sosa said.
Fellowship Southwest is an independent, ecumenical network founded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Its focus includes serving migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border, including through partnerships with, and fundraising support for, ministries and churches in Mexico.
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