‘She called and said ‘Mom the war started”: Ukrainian woman in Rochester saves parents

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Some Ukrainians who were lucky enough to leave soon after the Russian invasion started are speaking out about their experience as refugees fleeing their homeland.

News10NBC sat down with a Ukrainian-American woman who now lives in Pittsford. Her parents arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine just a few days ago. We heard what it took for them to get out and find safety thousands of miles from home.

Three weeks ago when Russia invaded Ukraine, Elina Jordan knew her parents had only one chance to escape from where they lived in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Getting them to Pittsford wasn’t that easy.

"[I’m] very thankful, and definitely can’t believe they’re away from whatever they’ve seen," Jordan said.

As of Thursday, it has been 10 days since Jordan has been reunited with her mother, Tatiana Mitina, and her father, Yurii Mitin. Her parents got out of Ukraine just in the nick of time, fleeing soon after the bombs started dropping. Her mother said on the first day, she woke up at 5 a.m. to the sounds of nearby explosions and had no idea at the time what was going on. Jordan helped interpret for both parents.

"She saw something was falling down above her ceiling. She thought maybe furniture was falling down," Jordan said.

Mitina said it continued for some time. then came the shocking news.

"My older daughter, she called and said ‘Mom the war started,’" Mitina said in Ukrainian.

Mitina immediately fled with her older daughter and three members of her family. First to the nearby mountain town where Yurii was house-sitting for a friend. Once everyone came together, they had to get to the Polish border. On the way, she recorded some video on her cell phone of thousands of refugees walking several miles to the border. Luckily, the entire family was successfully allowed entry.

"The second they crossed the border in the middle of the night I was sitting here booking their tickets because they do have United States Visas," Jordan said.

"We’re very thankful to the Polish government for allowing Ukrainians to come so quickly, and they were the ones opening their borders in the first place," Mitina said.

Her husband, Yurii, also added in Ukrainian, "But not only Poland. A lot of European countries."

Before the war, photos of her parents show everyday life in Kyiv.

"Ukraine is a peaceful country," Mitina said. "People were living their regular lives. Their peaceful lives. Kids went to school. Adults went to work. Nobody was looking forward to this war."

When asked if they plan to return back to Ukraine again, both said of course.

"Because besides our younger daughter we still have our family members. We have our older daughter and our grandchildren. I have a son there," Mitin said.

Jordan’s older sister and her family currently remain in Poland for now and are reported safe. Her hope is that the U.S. government opens its border to let in all Ukrainian refugees who already have family in the U.S. to settle here.