Ukrainian university student finds refuge in SF after being forced to leave family, friends behind

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Thursday, March 10, 2022
Ukrainian university student finds refuge in SF after escape
A Ukrainian student forced to leave behind family and friends, has found refuge in San Francisco. Here is her story of fleeing war-torn Ukraine.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Since the start of the war, more than two million Ukrainians have fled the country seeking shelter and safety. One of them, arrived here in the Bay Area this past Saturday.

The young woman, a 20-year-old college student who had been studying in Kyiv, spoke to ABC7 News anonymously in a San Francisco garage Wednesday night.

"We heard the missiles. I saw the airplanes right in front of my eyes," she said.

TAKE ACTION: Local and national support for people in Ukraine

Wishing to keep her identity hidden in order to protect her family still in the country, the woman has come to stay with her brother, who immigrated to the U.S. a decade ago.

Their parents decided to stay in Ukraine with their father joining the resistance fending off the Russian invasion, and their mother unwilling to leave his side.

"I feel a bit guilty that I'm here in a safe place while all of my friends, part of my family, they are in Ukraine," the woman said.

VIDEO: SJ community pushes for real action at Vigil for Peace in support of Ukraine

Beyond sending thoughts and prayers to the people of Ukraine, the San Jose community encouraged real action at Tuesday night's Vigil for Peace.

The woman described her terrifying journey out of the country, trying for days to get on a train out of Kyiv.

"I saw first people, they were already scared. Everybody was in panic," she said.

She says she spent her nights in a makeshift bomb shelter with hundreds of other people.

"They were crying. They were in a terrible state. I tried not to look at them because I would also panic," she said.

After finally getting a train to the west of country, the woman eventually made her way to the Polish border by bus, exhausted both mentally and physically.

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"I finally felt safe. Like I'm supposed to feel in my country but couldn't," the woman said.

From Poland, she finally boarded a flight here to the Bay Area where she reunited with her brother, but is still facing the demons of war.

"When I hear the airplane I just get triggered," she said.

With her country now a warzone, the woman will stay here in America -- But she has dreams of one day returning back home to friends, family and a life that can seem like a distant memory.

"Ukrainians were totally united. We understood that we will win. But it's hard to keep positive all the time," the woman said.

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So for now, she's asking for help, encouraging Americans not to forget Ukraine, and to remember the people giving their lives all in the pursuit of freedom.

"People know but they should understand that Ukrainians are dying there. Like really dying," she said.