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The joy of reunion: Ukrainians fleeing war arrive in Utah

Posted at 10:01 PM, Mar 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-06 00:29:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY — It has been a difficult time even for Utahns as they have watched the conflict in Ukraine continue, but even more so for those waiting to hear if their family and loved ones there are safe.

In the busy movement at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Saturday, one group stood still.

Katya Kravchenko hadn't seen her mother in three years, ever since she moved to Utah to attend college.

“I can’t believe this is happening, to be honest," said Kravchenko, nervously holding one edge of the Ukrainian flag while glancing toward the door her mom could walk through any minute.

For a moment, Kravchenko and many Ukrainians across the Beehive State have wondered if they'd ever see their loved ones again.

"Every day is scary, especially when you’re watching the news and you see your neighborhood being bombed," said Kravchenko. "When I was on the phone with my parents, I could hear the explosions through the phone. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever heard.”

Vasil Osipenko has felt that same anxiousness. His family lives in Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Every day we wake up with the thought of whether they are still alive or not, and when we hear their voices, we celebrate life," he said.

Osipenko wasn't waiting at the airport for family members, though: He waited for six of his friends flying in from Kyiv.

Anastasia Voronetska waited for her parents and two siblings.

“I just want them to be safe, that’s all," she said.

For Kravchenko, Osipenko and Voronetska, their loved ones have traveled from Kyiv to Poland or Hungary and eventually to Utah. Most of their family members left as soon as the invasion began more than a week ago.

“I just want to hug her and actually see her in person," said Kravchenko.

Feeling that real hug is what 16-year-old Ieva just left behind in Kyiv.

Ieva flew from Amsterdam after escaping Ukraine. Friends met her at the airport because her family wasn't with her.

"They had to stay there," she said.

Her family did not have the right visas to leave Ukraine.

Ieva said while she was in Kyiv, she could hear the bomb sirens from another town, warning them of danger.

Their family boarded up their basement for protection.

“You wake up from hearing bombs and it was really scary," said Ieva.

The last view of Kyiv for Ieva was that of military vehicles driving through the streets.

“I just want peace," she said. "I just want everybody to live in peace and to not start fights to get power, because we’re all equal.”

The worry is not over, but reuniting with loved ones has brought comfort amidst the conflict.

“It’s a terrible event, but at the end of the day, I’m glad that they are here," said Voronetska.