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Tampa Bay Woman Says Family In Ukraine Is Hiding In Bunkers To Stay Safe

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - As tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to escalate, one local Tampa Bay woman who has family in Ukraine is speaking out.

Over the last week, Nataliia Holavanova, has been praying.

"Give us a little bit more time, to be safe, please. Dear Lord, I'm praying for my family, so we can hug each other again," said Holavanova.

Her whole family is in Ukraine…and she says the last week has been horrifying.

"On the 24th, I woke up and I saw my messenger filled with stuff like so many messages everywhere and I said 'What's going on?' and first I opened my mom's message and she said 'Don't worry, don't panic, we are ok,'" said Holavanova.

But after Russia began invading Ukraine last week, all she does is worry.

"Our morning routine looks like this: I wake up, checking my mom is doing good, if my nephew is doing good, if my relatives are doing good. Then I pray for them, then I start reading news," said Holavanova.

She says her family resides in Kyiv and Kharkiv, where intense shelling attacks are happening.

"I have a close relative, Tania, she stays in Kyiv and she couldn't leave, and they are hiding, it's kind of like a cellar, they are hiding there most of the time, they sleep three to four hours a day," said Holavanova.

But Holavanova says even the people in hiding aren't safe.

"It was very loud, very, very loud, and one senior lady, she got a heart stroke and died right in front of their eyes," said Holavanova.

She says her family is staying in Ukraine to fight for their home and she's asking everyone to make donations through an organization called Meest, which allows people to order and send food, medicine, and other items to Ukraine.

Holavanova hopes she can hug her family once again soon.

"Mom and dad if you see this somehow…I know you know no English...We are praying for them and we love them," said Holavanova.

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