Missile strikes, explosions and gunfire continue to bombard Kyiv, as Russian troops aggressively try to take down the Ukrainian capital.
The offensive started Thursday and the Russian military has attacked Ukraine from all sides: air, ground and sea.
“I just want to cry,” said Julia Diachkova, a Ukrainian living in Allen, Texas, just north of Dallas. “I am angry at the Russians.”
Diachkova told Anadolu Agency that her parents are from Kyiv but they have been preparing for weeks to evacuate, if necessary.
When Russia launched its attack, she saw the missile strikes on the news and contacted them immediately.
“I called my parents and told them, ‘Russia is attacking you now, the missiles are being fired.’”
Diachkova said her folks are retired and have been building a house 30 minutes outside Kyiv. She said they were ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
“They had their cars ready and their documents, and their belongings, and I told them to move now,” she said. “They were prepared. They bought extra food and water, and they have electricity.”
But Diachkova said escaping Kyiv is not a guarantee everything will be okay in the long run.
“My parents -- they are safe right now,” she said. “But when I see these rockets and bombs coming, I’m really feeling bad for my family. They’re afraid. They don’t know what to do. They’re waiting and praying that everything will end, and we will win.”
NATO is deploying more troops to Eastern Europe as fighting intensifies. But as the world watches the Russian attack unfold on television, it hits home to those who have roots in Ukraine.
“It’s surreal. This is only something you’d see in movies about World War II, but now it's happening,” said Alena Marchanka, a Belarusian of Ukrainian descent living in Houston.
“If NATO is not going to come and support Ukraine, I think Ukraine is gone, and that scares me,” said Marchanka. “I would never ever in my scariest dreams even think about this happening so quickly after World War II.”
Marchanka told Anadolu Agency she is in close contact with friends in Ukraine. She said they are among people seen in news videos hiding in the subway system and fleeing the country in traffic jams.
“After seeing explosions, after seeing bombs drop basically in their backyards, they are panicking,” said Marchanka. “Everybody is terrified because they are scared for their safety, their children, their families.”
Marchanka said it is heartbreaking to see the devastation and chaos in Kyiv, not knowing what is going to happen next.
“I’ve been crying on and off for two days right now, because it’s just unfair, it shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “I lived in Kyiv. I see the streets that I once walked on. Now, they’re being bombed.”
Marchanka shared her sadness when talking about the attacks, reminiscing about the two countries’ historical alliance.
“We have history together, we are all brothers and sisters,” she emphasized. “We fought together in World War II, we fought side by side – the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Belarusians – we all fought the war together.”
But Marchanka said this war is different.
“It’s not the Russians’ war. It's not the Ukraine's war. It’s Putin’s war,” she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “This is the price of dictatorship. Because it’s just one person who does what he wants.”
“Right now he’s being called Put-ler – the combination of Putin and Hitler – because in essence, that’s what he is,” said Marchanka.
“He’s killing neighbors and friends,” said Oleksandr Babichev, a Ukrainian business owner in Houston. “Putin kills everybody around him, it doesn't matter who -- neighbors, family -- it doesn’t matter. The world needs to stop this guy.”
Babichev told Anadolu Agency he has been in touch with friends and colleagues in and around Kyiv since the war started.
“It was scary, just 100%,” he said of his friends’ reactions to the initial Russian attack. “They thought it was like a joke, maybe, or something, to pressure the Ukrainian people and the world. It was not a joke. It was real. Everything. Nobody knew that Mr. Putin could do this and go to the capital of Ukraine and tackle Ukraine.”
Babichev said as intimidating as Russia’s huge military force is, his fellow countrymen are not backing down.
“The panic was the first day,” he said, “But people are now volunteers, and Ukrainian people are ready to support and protect and save Kyiv. Regular people, the government gives them guns, and they stay there to protect the people of Ukraine from the Russians.”
Babichev applauds countries that have already imposed economic sanctions on Russia, including the US, but said the effect of monetary penalties are not immediate.
“The world needs to stop him very quickly,” he emphasized. “This is not good, Our people are dying. Our children are dying. This is bad. It needs to stop.”
Babichev is pleading for NATO and allied forces to immediately thwart Russia’s offensive attack in Ukraine. He believes the future of the world depends on it.
“The problem is not only Ukraine. After Ukraine, it can be any country, and the world, because this guy (Putin) is never going to stop,” he added.
“This is not the problem of only one country, this is the problem for the whole world,” he added.