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For weeks, Mayrna Sokolovska has watched from afar as Russian artillery, gunfire, and airstrikes devastate her dwelling nation of Ukraine.
“I nonetheless can not consider it,” Sokolovska instructed Fox Information from her dwelling of Beverly Hills, Calif. “All the things, the place I grew up — all my homeland — is simply burnt out [and] destroyed.”
Lots of the photos Sokolovska sees of Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine, now in its fourth week, come from her 24-year-old brother Roman, a soldier with the Ukrainian navy. She says he texts her movies from the entrance traces exhibiting hollowed-out buildings, destroyed tanks and the our bodies of lifeless troopers lining the streets.
She additionally obtained common updates throughout video chats together with her cousin and greatest good friend, Anna Bilonozhko, who lived in Kyiv together with her 6-year-old son, Mark. The 2 ladies grew up collectively within the jap Ukrainian metropolis of Donetsk and she or he says their tight bond remained robust even after Sokolovska moved to the USA in 2008.
“She picked up the cellphone and I see it in her eyes,” Sokolovska stated, describing how the conflict had been affected her cousin. “I instructed her, ‘it’s important to go away now.’”
Whereas her brother should stay in Ukraine due to a Presidential decree forbidding military-aged males from leaving the nation, she says she grew to become decided to convey Bilonozhko and her son to her dwelling in Beverly Hills. Sokolovska stated she was additionally motivated by her personal historical past. Her father was killed in an explosion as he walked dwelling from work in Could of 2014, one month after Russian troopers first invaded Ukraine.
“I can not lose her,” Sokolovska stated. “She’s the closest human on this earth for me.”
Sokolovska stated she first secured a driver to take the pair to Kyiv’s central practice station so they may get to Poland by rail. She stated that journey took two days, because the automobile slowly navigated across the Ukrainian capital to keep away from bombed-out or blocked bridges and roadways.
Once they lastly received on the practice to Poland, Sokolovska stated she flew from Los Angeles to Warsaw and met them at a bus station.
Over the subsequent week, Sokolovska says they traveled to 4 extra European countries trying to get visas to the United States however had been unsuccessful. She says they ultimately obtained a visa from the Mexican Embassy in Budapest.
“We went by plenty of international locations throughout this journey,” Sokolovska stated. “I instructed her, ‘do not hand over.’”
After two extra flights and lengthy hours in passport management, the trio lastly arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border between Tijuana and San Diego. That’s the place Sokolovska says Bilonozhko utilized for – and obtained — entry to the U.S. for herself and her son below momentary humanitarian parole.
“She’s [a] hero for me,” Bilonozhko stated of her cousin whereas combating again tears. “It is wonderful, you recognize. It is like a dream…I simply smile.”
“I used to be simply scared and crying…for him, for my life… it was horrible, ” Bilonozhko continued, as she described making an attempt to relax her son whereas they had been nonetheless in Kyiv, because the sounds of planes rumbled overhead and explosions rattled the partitions and home windows.
Sokolovska hopes different Americans with household in Ukraine will even look into bringing their family members to the U.S. if they’ve the means to take action.
“If they’ve the flexibility to do it, simply do it,” stated Sokolovska.
If not, Bilonozhko encourages individuals who can to donate clothes, meals, and different objects for these fleeing or nonetheless in Ukraine, which incorporates her dad and mom, who she has not been capable of attain for over every week. A lot of her household stay within the war-torn Donetsk area.
“I am so grateful they’re secure,” Sokolovska stated. “Each time once I see them… I wish to cry as a result of like, you recognize, it is arduous to see them. We went by lots.”
“I hope to return to my dwelling, to my nation, however not now,” Bilonozhko stated. “Now, it’s inconceivable.”
Fox Information’s Christina Coleman contributed to this report.