Only On CBS: Ukrainian Refugees Fleeing War Arrive To America
HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) — After escaping a war-torn Ukraine and the now besieged Kyiv, a young Ukrainian couple landed in Hollywood, away from the violence, although only for a few days.
"It's very hard to even imagine that you might not have a home to come back," said Liz Shchepetykovia. " I don't think I can, I just really don't."
Shchepetykovia and her partner Vitaliy Sharlay fled their homes during the first morning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They darted for the Romanian border and waited for hours, standing among the thousands of others trying to escape the bloodshed.
"It's terrifying that there are people so cruel that can in one moment just turn the life of a 45 million nation upside down," said Shchepetykovia. "And make you run away from your home. I just don't wish it in anybody because it's the most terrifying thing there could be."
After the hellish, near 600-mile journey into Romania, the couple received an olive branch from Shchepetykovia's old host family in Missouri.
"She's my daughter," said Jo Harper, who Shchepetykovia still calls "mom".
Shchepetykovia, a former exchange student, lived with Harper when she was 16 years old.
"I mean once you live in a Harper house, you're a harper," said Harper. "If she is in danger, then get home —that's just simple."
As a university researcher, Shchepetykovia and Sharlay qualified for the Scholars at Risk project allowing them to access funds to relocate them to her old home of Kansas City, Mo four days after the Russian invasion began. Since their arrival to the United States, the pair have spent countless amounts of hours trying to help other Ukrainians escape or to send supplies to those still there. People like Sharlay's brother and father, who were enlisted to stay and fight.
"I have no idea how to fight with a gun, but what I know is how to fight with ideas," said Shchepetykovia.
Although the coupled said they have been placed on a Russian kill-list, Sharlay and Shchepetykovia decided to continue to help evacuate as many civilians as they can and to expose the horrors of war many of their fellow Ukrainians experienced.
"Of course what's the most important is the people cause you can rebuild the infrastructure and new buildings can rise up," said. "What matters is saving the lives of people and there are millions now who need as much help as they can get."
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