Family Fleeing Ukraine Finds Shelter in San Diego

NBC Universal, Inc.

Three weeks ago when tensions between Russia and Ukraine were merely simmering, Oleksandr and Jessica Skakalskiy knew they had to act fast.

“I knew the war would be [happening], it was just a matter of time,” said Oleksandr.

The couple has two children. Ellie is 8 years old and Gabriel is 4. They’re also expecting their third child in less than a month.

"We don't talk about the serious stuff in front of them because I can already see the damage it's done to them," said Jessica. "How much it makes them stress out and worry."

The family has been staying with Jessica's parents in Valley Center. Jessica was born and raised in San Diego. It was during a missionary trip to Ukraine in 2011 that she met Oleksandr. They fell in love, married and started a family in Ukraine.

"We thought we’d come back to the states when my parents were in their 80s and they need physical help because they are too old," said Jessica. "But the time came a lot sooner than we thought."

While they are relieved to have fled the country just in time, they worry about the family members left behind.

“My dad is 59 and in one month he’ll be 60, but he cannot leave the border,” said Oleksandr. "He has really bad health, he’s stuck there."

Ukraine has banned all men ages 16 to 60 from leaving the country. Oleksandr's two brothers ages 20 and 23 are now also stuck.

So far, no one he knows has been harmed, but he fears what could happen over the next few days.

“There are explosions there, sirens go off regularly, people hear shootings," said Oleksandr. "It’s just unbelievable. The streets you grew up in, to see the tanks and have the armed troops on your streets.”

 Jessica and Oleksandr don't know what the future holds for them.

"I would love to go back and rebuild and help people there because emotional destruction, how people were injured will last years and years," said Oleksandr.

But for now, they wait watching from thousands of miles away as their home turns into a war zone.

More than 50,000 people have fled Ukraine so far, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Contact Us