Ukrainian refugees arrive safely in SoCal after 2-week journey through eastern Europe and Mexico

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- If a picture is worth a thousand words, Ukrainian refugees Petro, Olga and their family could write a book on bravery.

On March 15, they spent their first day in America. In their home near Kyiv, they spent six days huddled in a bomb shelter.

"All of our girls, all of our children were underground," Petro said. "But me and my father [stayed] and look around."

It was the country they knew so well but suddenly didn't recognize. Their young children grew scared.

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"And they said, 'Father, these airplanes are going to drop bombs to us?'" Petro said, recalling his grade-school age children. "One year ago, they would say, "Father, it's airplane, let's go to the sea by airplane, yes?'"

Ukraine's martial law prevented most men younger than 60 from leaving. Among the exceptions are those who have three or more children. Petro was left with the dilemma to stay and protect his country, or to leave and protect his family. He chose family.

On March 1, they fled into Romania. The family then took a car through Hungary, Slovakia and made it to Prague.

Still unsettled, they bought a flight to Mexico City, another to Tijuana, and got across the border into Southern California, where a group of volunteers drove them to Los Angeles, and offered a place to stay.

It's part of a larger system run through churches and nonprofits, helping move Ukrainian refugees in, and getting warehouses full of donations out.

Petro helped move boxes to be shipped back home, which is, in some ways, how their story could end. The reality is, it doesn't.

"I can live here maybe a few days," Petro said. "We don't know what we will do maybe the next week."

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He and Olga told Eyewitness News that they have PhDs, and in Ukraine, worked in medicine.

"I know how to help people, I like to help people," Petro said. "I know how to treat COVID, how to treat pulmonary diseases."

He is now asking for help.

"I need only work," Petro said. "If my children go to school, it's my best dream."

The family has established a GoFundMe account. To help, visit

Among the local nonprofits that are helping families, Miry's List provides refugees with supplies from diapers to clothing to food.

Other ways to help Ukrainian refugees and the ongoing relief efforts can be found here.

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