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Russia-Ukraine War | Ukrainian refugees share stories of leaving their life behind and rebuilding in Sacramento

Over the past year, most of us heard about crimes against humanity. Genocide. The worst conflict in the West since World War II.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Friday, Feb. 24 marked one year since Russian troops began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Soldiers shot and killed innocent people near their homes. Children who escaped the violence were seen crying at train stops as their fathers said their goodbyes and turned around to go fight.

Over the past year, most of us heard about crimes against humanity. Genocide. The worst conflict in the West since World War II.

The "To The Point with Alex Bell" team sat down with Ukrainians who now live in Sacramento to hear their stories of escaping their country and rebuilding their lives.

Svitlana and Mariia  

Mother and daughter Svitlana and Mariia Bolotnykova spent the first days of the war hiding in a basement. They described what it was like to breathe safely for the first time since the war.

“It was also horrible because it was the end of February and March in Ukraine and it's still not hot, and even not warm," said Mariia Bolotnykova. "We slept with my mom and we tried to keep warm by hugging each other. We were concerned about our lives because you don't know if it's the last day of your life or not.” 

The battles were close to the roads as they left.

"You drive and you don't know if bombs will, like fall in the field or on your car," she said. "I can't explain this feeling... but when we escape this territory for the first time, we can just breathe free.”

Watch Svitlana and Mariia Bolotnykova's story below:

Olga Bulda

Olga Bulda loves Ukraine and the life she built there with friends, her beautiful apartment and a great job. But that’s not all she had to leave behind after the war started.

"My dad can’t come to live (here) because he's 56 and older men under the age of 60 cannot leave Ukraine," she said. "So officially, he can’t leave and my mom doesn't want to live without him.”

This is her story of having to leave her family and the moment she realized her life would never be the same:

Meanwhile, Spring of Life Church in Orangevale has a program called Parasolka that has been supporting Ukrainian refugees and immigrants with resources and sponsors.  

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