SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Ukrainian mother of two is sharing details of a harrowing journey that led her and her daughters to San Diego.
Three days after the Russian invasion, Yulia Dlugokanska and her two daughters, ages 11 and 18, were sleeping in the hallway in their apartment complex in Kharkiv. As the sounds of war crept closer, panic set in for her youngest.
“There was shooting from aircraft. She was so hysterical,” said Dlugokanska.
She asked her daughter to draw and rip up pictures of Vladmir Putin to calm her.
Then, a rocket blast near a bus stop, about a block from their apartment, killed several people. That spurred Dlugokanska to action, even as the government warned all to stay inside.
“Something inside me was telling me I have to go. I need to take this car, and I need to move forward,” said Dlugokanska. “We went to try and move our things from our apartment. It’s the 5th floor. They started shooting more.”
After barely avoiding gunfire outside her home, Dlugokanska, her daughters, their cat and dog, got on the road. Her husband, a doctor at a hospital, stayed behind to work and care for his disabled mother.
Cellphone video showed an eerily empty road as she drove away. It took her four days to get to western Ukraine, days of listening to anti-aircraft fire in the sky and rerouting past bombed-out roads.
“In the one city we entered, they said there is no road because the bridge is totally destroyed,” said Dlugokanska.
They stayed at shelters and at the homes of acquaintances of acquaintances. More violence near the border compelled them to cross into Poland. Active tourist visas allowed them to fly into San Diego where a friend is now hosting them.
“Right now, I feel some kind of guilt because I’m in a safe place, and my kids are with me,” said Dluogkanska.
She says the fate of her husband is a nonstop worry, as is the fate of her people.
“I feel that I’m proud to be part of Ukraine, and I feel so much pain,” said Dlugokanska.
Dlugokanska says she spent the last of her money to get her dog and cat on the flight to San Diego. She and her daughters arrived with three backpacks.
A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help them with expenses.