KYIV CITY, Ukraine — A missionary family working in Ukraine has fled the worsening conditions around Kyiv, taking refuge with friends in Indiana.
The invasion, explosions and air raid sirens are frightening to watch, but imagine what it's like for the people who live in Ukraine.
People like Ruslan and Olga Antonova, who live about two hours west of Kyiv.
"Our hearts are broken that our loved ones are still in Ukraine and they are under attack," said Olga. "They're just living in their land. This is our country. We feel so scared and fearful, and at the same time, so strong because our nation is united to fight for its independence."
The couple, who has been married 24 years, knew trouble was brewing. Since they had visas and connections in Indiana, they got out of Ukraine.
"Our friends were very concerned about the situation getting worse in Ukraine. In January, they bought us tickets to come to Indianapolis and stay in their home," Olga said.
Olga's husband, who is a pastor, fled Ukraine this week.
"We're so thankful to God that Ruslan got here just a few hours before Russia invaded Ukraine," said Olga.
"We have big appreciation for giving us shelter for a period of time. We appreciate it greatly," said Ruslan. "We left a lot of friends, church people, relatives, and it's very difficult for us. We left both of our parents in Ukraine. We arranged for them to go a village where they have a summer house to spend time together. Right now, that's a more safe place."
The Antonovas work with Mission To Ukraine, an Indianapolis-based Christian organization.
"We provide services for kids with disabilities and we also work with ladies in crisis pregnancies," said Olga. "Mission to Ukraine has started to fundraise for emergency needs of Ukraine. They've been doing a very good job. We have bought a lot of drinking water and food supplies and medicine for a month right now to help those families we serve."
Dozens of staff in the Zhytomyr, Ukraine office were only 13 miles from one of the attacks. Now the Antonovas are watching the invasion on TV and praying for peace in their homeland.
"We would like to encourage to continue to pray for Ukraine as the state and the nation, our army, is able to defend our land during this difficult day. We trust that God will say His final word or He has not said His final word about this situation. Your prayers and your support is very needed. Your prayers and your support is very needed," Ruslan said.
IU student fearful for welfare of mother, brother in Ukraine
“All of a sudden, I started seeing all these statements saying it has begun, it has started,” said Nataliya Shpylova Saeed, the president of Indiana University’s Ukrainian Studies Organization and a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures.
Shpylova Saeed said she is heartbroken and fearful for her mom and brother still in Ukraine.
“(My mom) says what’s scary right now is, at the moment, I don’t even hear cars in the streets. It’s very quiet… and also I’m scared because I don’t know when it will end,” Saeed said.
Being miles away, Saeed is thankful for the support she feels at home. She came to the U.S. in 2012 after living in Ukraine for 30 years.
“These words of support are just the only thing that helps me stay hopeful and sane at the moment,” she said.
It’s the same hope Inna Pecar is feeling, yet still fearful for the country.
“It’s just so scary and it doesn’t make sense,” Pecar said.
Pecar opened an international adoption agency in Indianapolis after moving here 30 years ago with her oldest son. She said "Kids First Adoption Services" frequently works with families in Ukraine, but right now, there is a lot of uncertainty.
“We make sure children are in a safe place, to make sure we keep in touch with adoptive families and update them as much as we can,” she said.
In the meantime, Ukrainians like Pecar are hoping for peace and an end to the chaos.
“There is not much to say besides… it’s a worst nightmare,” Pecar said.
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