Russo-Ukrainian war: Ukrainian refugees reunite with loved ones in the United States

MORRISVILLE, NC — Hugs couldn’t wait for Halyna Marchenko and her two children.

Relatives ran before they completely cleared security Tuesday night at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina to greet them after their exodus from Ukraine to the United States.

“Wednesday was normal life for us,” Marchenko said. “Thursday everything changed. It was so scary because I have two young children.”

Marchenko was greeted by her two sisters and others with balloons and flowers.

“I’m lucky, but there are so many people in Ukraine, even women with children who aren’t so lucky,” she said.

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Marchenko, her children and two other family members began their journey in Kyiv.

Her husband, who cannot leave the country, drove them to Lviv, a city about 300 miles west of the capital. A Ukrainian government order barring men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country – to keep them available for military conscription – means many women and children must seek safety on their own.

From Lviv they walked for hours before Polish friends picked them up near the border.

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They then flew from Warsaw to Munich, then from Munich to Washington, DC before arriving in Raleigh.

“The husbands are there. Our brothers are there and our children are fighting for our freedom,” said Ulyana Marchenko, Halyna’s sister. “Ukraine is the most peaceful nation in the world.”

Their mother is still in their home country. She says to her daughter: “When the sun goes down, I’m scared. Our capital is destroyed.

They were able to get out of harm’s way thanks to the generosity of a local couple who donated hundreds of thousands of United Airlines miles to help people like Marchenko.

A United Airlines team was also at the airport to greet everyone.

“It’s amazing,” Marchenko said. “I don’t have the words to explain it to you. It’s amazing that our whole family is together in one place. Now I can sleep.”

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