Russia-Ukraine Crisis

San Diego Families Worry for Loved Ones in Ukraine

Demonstrations and rallies are being held across San Diego following Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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San Diego families with ties to Ukraine are sharing their frustrations, fears and worries amid the attacks in Ukraine by Russia. Many Ukrainian-Americans are pleading for world leaders to help stop the violence in their home country.

Via video chat Ukranian-American Svitlana Radulovich connected with her cousin in Ukraine amid the violence and uncertainty, Radulovich translated NBC 7's interview with her cousin Anastasia Shevela.

"I don’t know how to cope with that it's very hard right now and I'm afraid I'll have to leave my home forever," said Shevela from Ukraine.

An emotional conversation as the cousins fear when will be the last time they can communicate as they worry internet connection will soon fail.

"You can all be as philosophic you want until it touches your family, you can be all calm and smart about that, but you know I never thought I could live through something like that and I got extremely angry, extremely mad," said Radulovich.

Since NBC 7's interview Thursday morning, Shevela has moved to a bunker.

"I thought that Russians would start in the Eastern part and they would never get to my region, but they were shooting all over Ukraine and my parents could hear that, they heard the explosions," said Radulovich.

Late Thursday, dozens of Ukrain supporters gathered along the Embarcadero for an anti-war rally, waving flags and flashing signs with powerful messages of peace.

"Honestly these last few days have been horrible, sitting at home not doing anything was too hard so being here being united definitely helps," said Iryna Axsom, a Ukrainian-American.

NBC 7's Amber Frias checked in at two pro-Ukraine events in San Diego County.

Axsom moved to the U.S. eight years ago but most of her family is still in Ukraine. 

"They packed a backpack, each one of them, just in case, no one is trying to go anywhere, just staying put and just hoping for the best," said Axsom.

Many people at the rally grew up in Ukraine but came to the U.S. for a better life. They say they worry about those left behind.

"They are in hearts and in our prayers," said Ukrainian-American Yuliyaheckert Tonzelli. "We just hope it's going to end soon."

"I feel like it's very weird being here and not there at the moment and feeling all those things that you should feel there," said Nadiia Sas, Ukrainian-American.

At an evening vigil in Santee, the mood was somber but participants' prayers called for strength.

"It’s everything we can do out here in the United States,” said Father Yurii Sas, a priest at Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. "A lot of us are Americans, but we were born in Ukraine, our relatives are still in Ukraine, our history is still in Ukraine."

The Ukrainians we spoke with say their relatives remain unharmed but fear what could happen over the next few days.

"I know this has been seen as it's coming and there was some help from other countries but we still need help. Anything you can do spread the word, don't believe Russian Media,” said Axsom. "United with Ukraine.”

Also in the crowd were Russian-Americans condemning Putin's actions.

"I can't do nothing,” said Olga Azorova, a Russian-American. "So I am here to support the Ukrainian people and we should stop all this crazy situation."

On Friday, Feb. 25, a candlelight vigil will be held at the House of Ukraine in Balboa Park starting at seven p.m.

"There’s already Ukrainian soldiers and civilians dying. There are explosions and my family has seen it," said Radulovich through tears.

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