“I’m scared. I don’t want it to escalate,” said Yelena Yermilove, a La Quinta resident with family in the Ukraine.
Ukrainians abroad are fleeing their country in search of safety and shelter amid the ongoing crisis between Russia, while relatives and friends around the world, including here in the Coachella Valley, worry for their safety and well-being. Their only consolation is that they can communicate with their loved ones through Instagram or Whatsapp, if they have Internet access.
“My mom’s sister and her whole family lives in Ukraine… but men (who are 18 and older) cannot leave. And my aunt is too old to leave. It’s very difficult to get out,” said Yermilove. “(My aunt) said it feels like they’re shooting everywhere. They’re throwing bombs with their eyes closed. (They) can’t even get out to get some fresh air.”
A beloved country, turned into a war zone with many unable to leave. Fighting back tears, Yermilove describes the turmoil her family experiences everyday since their country came under attack by Russia over a week ago.
“I mean…. I mean, I’m just worried, you know, it just comes and goes. For the first few days, I was worried to check the phone to see if they’re okay,” said Yermilove. “We’re just waiting, waiting, hoping they’re okay because they’re not leaving anywhere. My cousins can’t leave.”
As the crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate, other Ukrainian and Russian residents in the Coachella Valley stand together in unity, protesting the possibility of a war.
“We want to stop Putin, we want peace, we want to stop killings of our people,” said Tatiana Wright. “We have come to the conclusion that we are much stronger together. Ukraine, stronger together.”
Yermilove’s family is holding onto hope.
“I’m just concerned and worried, but they all say, it’s going to be okay. They all believe it’s going to be okay,” said Yermilove.
But Yermilove is still fearful, faced with the uncertainty of not knowing when a phone call with her loved ones might be their last.
“It has to end, it’s going to end, I just hope they’re going to be alive,” she said.