Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, more than two million people have sought refuge outside the country. Some of those refugees have arrived in Connecticut.
Viktoriia Zakhidna and her two young children, ages 3 and 5, arrived in the United States on Tuesday. Her sister Marianna has taken them in to her Middletown home. For them, it has been an emotional reunion after a terrifying few weeks.
Overcome with emotion, Zakhidna, 27, recalls the horrifying scene she has just escaped.
“A lot of Ukrainian kids, they are just dying. Just because for no reason,” she said.
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Together with her two children Elizabeth and Dan, Zakhidna is now safe with her younger sister Marianna. But this reunion did not come easily.
Despite her sister’s pleas to come to the U.S. before the Russia invasion began, Viktoriia was resistant.
“She says 'you have to leave Ukraine. War is starting,' and I didn’t believe that,” said Viktoriia.
U.S. & World
Stark images of the Russian invasion were what gripped Viktoriia's sister. Unsettled, Marianna could not rest.
“I was like how are you going to stay there? I mean I can’t even sleep at night anymore,” Marianna explained.
As bombing moved closer to her hometown of Ternopil, Viktoriia’s situation worsened. Meanwhile her sister agonized over the images she was seeing from her Connecticut home.
“People were hiding in the concrete basements. Just so they don’t die,” Marianna said.
On Saturday, Viktoriia said an emotional goodbye to her husband Andri, who has stayed behind to fight. A brutal sacrifice - painfully felt by her children.
Along a grueling journey from Ukraine to Poland, Viktoriia saw many women like herself traveling with small children, leaving all else behind.
“When I saw this, I was crying a lot. Because I cannot believe it’s happening. It’s happening in the 21st-century, right now,” she said.
On Tuesday, Viktoriia and Marianna met at JFK Airport. They hadn’t seen each other in two years.
“I was crying,” said Viktoriia. “I cannot believe I am here in a safe place.”
While leaving her husband behind has been the most difficult part, Viktoriia also left a career behind as an IT professional and graphic designer. She now feels a lot of pressure to take care of her children without her husband and is looking for a fresh start here in the U.S.