DETROIT – Last week, this group of friends were making dinner plans. This week, they’re spending their nights sleeping in a makeshift bomb shelter in their basement.
“Russia definitely underestimated how united we are and how strong we are,” said 24-year-old Ukrainian escapee Olha Melynkova.
Melynkova was in the capital when Russian forces invaded.
“I was alone in my apartment in Kyiv,” Melynkova said. “My family was not there, and I was very frightened and terrified.”
She texted a video to her friend seen in the video player above when she heard sirens for the first time.
“We jumped in the car, and we just started driving,” Melynkova said. “The first few days, we were all in an adrenaline rush; we didn’t feel anything. We were just driving scared for our lives.”
They made it safely to a friend’s home in Western Ukraine.
“We feel depressed and useless because all of our friends who are in Kyiv,” Melynkova said. “They experienced horrible stuff, and we are here safe, and I feel huge guilt because we can’t help them.”
The escapees built a makeshift bomb shelter in their basement as fighting intensified.
“We had some pillows and some blankets, and we just lay on the floor and wait,” Melynkova said.
Every day that goes by brings new horrors.
“I have friends in Kharkiv, and the house next door was bombed and destroyed, and when I heard the news, I just can’t find words,” Melynkova said. “We want the world to know we won’t bend down, and all Ukraine stands together. It’s so inspiring to see how the world supports us with the sanctions, with all the humanitarian help. We’re so grateful, and it shows the world and people is still people,” Melynkova said.
Humanitarian plans are underway in Detroit as Priya Mann talked to Ukrainian-American leaders as they have a building in Hamtramck. They are expecting to start collecting supplies in the coming days, and as soon as those plans are finalized, Local 4 News will bring them to you.