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"There is active combat just in front of their windows": Tallahassee family with loved ones in Ukraine

What they're going through and how you can help
Posted at 11:50 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 00:08:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — "There is active combat just in front of their windows. There are artillery and missile strikes all the time."

Anastasiia Vlasenko is a PhD student at Florida State University. She moved to Tallahassee in 2016 with her husband, Illia Strikhar. They have a 5-month-old son, Adam. She's from Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv. That's where her parents, sister, and grandmother are right now.

"My grandmother is way too old to go to the basement which they are using as a bomb shelter."

Anastasiia says it is impossible to evacuate by car.

"Traffic jams that form on these roads are currently targeted by the Russian troops so people are actually dying by trying to evacuate."

And traveling by train takes 10 hours to get somewhere safe.

"You have to stand the whole way, my grandmother is 80 years old, we suspect she is currently suffering from COVID."

Right now, she's urging her sister to leave.

"She can't leave with her boyfriend because he will eventually be conscripted into the Ukrainian army, my sister is afraid of crossing the border herself because there are a lot of human traffickers at the border targeting young women."

Vlasenko and her husband are working with local government leaders to spread awareness where we live. Wednesday, Vlasenko met with Chris Sprowls, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

"We asked him to consider humanitarian aid for Ukraine and also to consider imposing sanctions on those oligarchs who keep their assets in Florida."

Speaker Sprowls Tweeted, "The Florida House unanimously passed a Resolution to support the Ukrainian people and condemn despicable Russian aggression."

They're not the only ones taking action. The Tallahassee non-profit, His Kids Too, has been helping people in Ukraine for years. Teresa Fillmon is the founder and director.

"Right now, there is no water, there is no electricity, there is no food on the shelves, no transportation, there is no way to get out of town."

Right now, they're working to help re-establish Ukrainian families and hopes our local community can join in the effort.

"We want to bring awareness, we want to bring support to the Ukrainian people and hopefully the Russian people will open their eyes."

As families like Vlasenko's work to figure out what's next.

"We really hope that we find someone like friends or extended family who might be willing to take my sister with them but currently it doesn't seem to be a possibility."

The U.N. Refugee Agency says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia's attack began.

This Saturday, a rally is happening in front of the Florida Capitol Building at 2PM to support the people of Ukraine.

The community is welcome to join.