An Eden Prairie woman has started a GoFundMe page for her Ukrainian relatives directly impacted by Russia’s invasion of their country.
“The last couple days just don’t feel real,” said Mariya Lysenko, who came to the U.S. from her native Ukraine at age 3 with her mother. “Everyone’s leaving, abandoning their homes, abandoning their life completely.”
Lysenko said the donations raised from the page will benefit her aunt Julia, uncle Vologda and their children Vova and Anna. While still in their pajamas, the family fled their home in suburban Kyiv not long after the invasion began in the early morning hours of Feb. 24,
As of Thursday, March 3, the page has raised $3,520 of its $5,000 goal.
“My mom called me crying, saying her sister (Julia) was distraught trying to help her children into the car, with sounds of explosions and bombarding nearby,” Lysenko wrote on the GoFund page. “We could hear noises of explosions through phone calls. An unnatural and horrifying sound. Unfortunately, this is the reality of millions of Ukrainians.”
The family drove to the border of Moldova, where they waited for a day to get their passports checked. They made it to Romania on Sunday night, Feb. 27, where they plan to stay for now.
Lysenko said the plan is to figure out how to get them to Minnesota. The money raised by the GoFundMe page will go toward airfare as well as helping with some of the costs they incurred leaving Ukraine.
According to the Associated Press, the U.N. refugee agency says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began.
“We don’t know if they will have something to come home to after this (in Ukraine)” she said. “So many buildings are getting ruined. We just want to help them get to a safe place. Preferably with us.”
Not everyone in her family was able to leave. Lysenko’s grandparents are still in Kyiv.
“My grandpa’s bedridden,” she explained. “With all his medical needs, he wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. We’re keeping pretty close contact with my grandma.”
As of Monday, Lysenko said she was unsure if her grandparents’ residence in downtown Kyiv was safe. Explosions were being heard by her grandmother a couple of miles outside the city.
“My mom and I buy groceries online for my grandparents, and my mom bought them groceries the Tuesday before this all happened,” she said. “We got fortunate because grocery stores are (now) closed. Pharmacies are (also) closed. So, they’re pretty confined to their apartment right now, which is probably the safest place for them.”
She admits it’s stressful when her grandmother doesn’t answer the phone.
“We call her quite a bit, or we have her at least message us or something,” Lysenko said. “She needs to sleep too, but when she doesn’t answer in a reasonable time frame, it’s really nerve-racking. It’s like, ‘Was that the last time I talked to my grandma?’ ‘Was that the last time my mom talked to her mom?'”
It’s an agonizing time for Lysenko and her mother, who lives in Richfield, as they watch the news or check their phones for updates on what’s happening in Ukraine.
“Obviously, my mom has way more ties than I do (in Ukraine). She has friends that she grew up with there,” she said. “My mom is taking it really hard. Harder than me. I was 3 when we left. I know my family. For her, it’s good friends that she still keeps in touch with.”
Lysenko is happy to see so much support around the world for Ukraine. “That’s just really good to see because I think it does help,” she said.
On her GoFundMe page, Lysenko wrote that she plans to do everything she can to aid Ukraine and its people. For now, that starts with her relatives.