Alexey had to flee Russia after protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Alexey grew up east of Kyiv and considers Ukraine his “motherland”. He moved to Russia as an adult to pursue job opportunities and was a naturalized citizen.

Alexey’s mother and grandmother still live in Ukraine; they’ve called him crying as Russian missiles hit their neighborhood and they frequently must shelter underground for safety. Most of Alexey’s Ukrainian friends, meanwhile, are either on the front line defending the country or displaced in Europe. Remaining silent about these events was not an option, he says.

For the past few years, Alexey has been active on social media speaking out against Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine. In 2022, as his mother sheltered for her life, Alexey took his activism to the streets. Despite the dangers of public demonstrations in Russia, he began participating in protest actions demanding an end to the war in Ukraine. The reaction from the Russian police was swift and brutal. Alexey was arrested, violently interrogated, and released. He showed up to more protests just days later. Again, the police detained and abused him.

After being released once more, Alexey started receiving death threats on his phone, as well as orders to meet with special investigators. In addition to doing protests, he had donated money to the Ukrainian defense effort. He went into hiding and finally decided to flee Russia, saying goodbye to his wife and daughter.

The journey was not easy. Alexey doesn’t speak Spanish or English, but he made his way to the U.S- Mexico border. ICE detained him for several months while he sought asylum. The Florence Project connected with Alexey at Eloy Detention Center and offered him full legal representation. The case was complicated by the fact that CBP confiscated Alexey’s cell phone, which contained evidence relevant to his asylum claim. The government lost his cell phone and we had to find documentation of his experience and evidence of persecutions of protesters in Russia to demonstrate that Alexey faced serious harm if deported. Together we won his safety and freedom. Alexey cried when the judge read the asylum decision. He asked Florence Project staff attorney John Mitchell for a tissue to wipe tears from his eyes.

We look forward to a time when Alexey’s family is reunified with him. His dream is to take his wife and daughter camping in Montana. He misses them greatly.