A man from Auburn, Maine who played basketball at the University of Maine and now plays professionally on a Ukrainian team is safe in Norway after fleeing Ukraine earlier this week.
Troy Barnies said he received a phone call from his agent on Sunday advising him to leave Ukraine. He was able to fly to his wife’s home in Norway on Monday.
"When I’m watching these videos and I see a bomb go off in Odessa, I’m like, I was there two weeks ago, that’s insane," he said during a Thursday interview with NECN/NBC 10 Boston.
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Barnies, who moved to Ukraine roughly six months ago, said the worry that has broken out across the eastern European nation as Russia invades was not present even a week ago because many Ukrainians thought any incursion would be similar to Russia’s 2014 push into places like Crimea.
To Barnies and his friends, a scenario in which Russia took over or attacked the entire country did not seem feasible.
"Talking to all my Ukrainian friends and teammates and management, they’re just like we’re used to this and Russia’s always picking on us," he said.
But by this past weekend, Barnies felt the situation was "slowly escalating" and, as the U.S. government had already advised Americans to do, he made arrangements to leave.
"The whole ride home we were talking about 'thank God you got of there, who know what’s going to happen?'" he explained, recalling the day he reunited with his wife.
Though he is now in Norway, Barnies has been in near-constant communication with Ukrainian and American friends who did not leave or were unable to before the Russian invasion began.
He has also received a large amount phone calls and text messages from family and other friends asking if he is OK and is in the process of responding to them.
Barnies also said he is "grateful" to be safe but he remains very concerned for people in Ukraine who are still in harm’s way.
"I can’t imagine being in their shoes," he explained.
That lingering uncertainty about the end result and consequences of the invasion is what’s most unsettling to Barnies now.
His career may be on pause for the immediate future, but he says that’s something he will manage in the weeks ahead.
His focus right now is keeping in touch with his family and friends and reminding people beyond Europe of the severity of what’s happening in Ukraine.
"I don’t want to speculate on anything but I hope Russia backs down," he said.
"I hope Russia gets penalized drastically from the rest of the world,” Barnies added, saying "basically, that’s the best-case scenario but I really don’t know what’s going to happen."