Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Del Mar Ukrainian-American Teenager Shares Despair, Hope for Family in Ukraine

Melania Nikolaienko, 17, shares how her family is hiding in a basement in Mariupol, Ukraine, among the violence

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Many across San Diego County are showing their solidarity with the Ukrainian people, including many Ukrainian-Americans who now call San Diego home.

"I feel so anxious every day and depressed because I see the pictures and what happens in my country now and my relatives," said Melania Nikolaienko, 17. "But right now, my family is sitting in the basement and they don’t have any internet, any cellular, last time I checked in with them was 20 hours ago."

Nikolaienko is a senior at Canyon Crest Academy and she shares the anguish she and her family who now reside in Del Mar feel about their home country.

"I'm so scared and at the same time, I'm proud. For example, my little brother right now, three days ago he texted me saying, 'I'm planning to join the Ukrainian army,'" she said. "I'm like, 'Really? You're 16 years old, you shouldn’t make this choice right now,' and he said, 'No, my country needs me.'"

Four years ago, Nikolaienko and her parents immigrated to San Diego from Mariupol, Ukraine, a city near the Russian border that is currently surrounded by Russian troops.

Nikolaienko worries about her family as they are currently hiding in their basement and she fears for her 79-year-old grandfather with diabetes.

"I'm just worried about not having the food for them, not having the water, not having the medicine for them," Nikolaienko said.

This is as she and her parents continue to attend rallies across San Diego, protesting for mercy on the Ukrainian people.

"My parents they are really, I see them they are really strong. They go into every protest still and they're like, 'Okay, our English is not as good,' so they say to me, 'You should go, you should talk and you should do something for your family,'" she said.

On Thursday, a Prayer for Ukraine is happening at St. Mary Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Spring Valley. The community is invited to pray for those on the front lines and call for peace.

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