‘Everyday a lot of people die:’ Ukraine refugees in Cincinnati struggle with toll of war

Signs of freedom stateside bring feelings of guilt for the homeland they fled.
Scenes of destruction from Ukraine as Russia's assault on the country continues.
Scenes of destruction from Ukraine as Russia's assault on the country continues.(Provided)
Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 10:57 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - As the U.S. celebrates Independence Day, several Ukrainian refugees in the Tri-State say the fight for their freedom isn’t over.

Russia continues to suffer significant losses in its war with Ukraine. At the same time, its military now largely controls the coveted Luhansk and Donetsk regions while maintaining prior gains around strategic southern cities Kherson and Mariupol.

President Vladimir Putin’s hopes for a swift victory may have been dashed early by unexpected Ukrainian resolve, but that same resolve must now grapple with the reality of a protracted war that could become one of attrition—violent for civilians as well as military members—for months or years ahead.

Liliia Huboko is a 19-year-old Ukrainian woman staying with a Cincinnati host family. She says she’s grateful to be in America but that the 4th of July was a hard holiday after everything she’s endured.

“I really want to cry when I try to explain what happened to me, with my family, with my friends,” Huboko said.

It’s a sentiment shared by two other refugees living with host families in the area, Anna Krynychna and Daria Harnaha.

Their journey to the Tri-State wasn’t an easy one. Video from Krynychna shows her traveling from Ukraine cramped together in close quarters with strangers fleeing the country. She recalls the biting cold and the sound of bombs exploding around them.

“Everyday they have lots of rockets to every city,” Krynychna said.

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Harnaha says she spent three days on a subway without heat, struggling to find food after leaving her family behind. The 18-year-old says she hasn’t even been able to talk to them.

“Most of them, I can’t,” she said.

Harnaha says it’s been a month since she’s heard from relatives.

“They just cut off all connection,” she explained. “They just cut out lights. People just have to cook on the fire, and it’s just really hard.”

“In Ukraine, everyday, a lot of people die,” Huboko said.

Fireworks erupted all over the Tri-State Monday. The sound proved triggering for the women, reminding them of the unceasing, often indiscriminate artillery barrages scarring their homeland

“It sounds, like, really similar to what’s going on in Ukraine, and the first time we were really surprised and a little scary,” Harnaha said.

The women are appreciative for their independence, all the while mindful that it’s something their loved ones in Ukraine are still fighting for.

“I think when you leave you feel a little bit guilty that you leave and someone stay in Ukraine,” Krynychna said.

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