We follow the story of a man who has just escaped safe and sound from Ukraine with his wife and children.
Andrey Kovalenko is one of the software developers working on our WFMZ+ application. He spoke with 69 News reporter Rob Manch about what it took to get his family to safety.
From the safety of a friend’s home in Poland, Kovalenko described the morning of February 24, when he knew he would have to leave his hometown of kyiv.
“I saw as if a big missile came from the sky, then it exploded somewhere. It was maybe 30 kilometers from my house. It was a really crazy experience,” Kovalenko recalled during a Zoom call.
Kovalenko said he quickly gathered what he would need and got his family out of the house.
“We did it in maybe 30 minutes. I packed two bags, just took everything we saw,” Kovalenko said.
On the first day, they went to his friend’s house in the south of kyiv to spend the night. Then they traveled west to the town of Zhytomer, but soon ran into trouble.
“Near the city of Zhytomyr, we discovered that a bridge had exploded and there was shooting from the other side,” Kovalenko said.
Kovalenko was also out of gas. He called his sister in the eastern city of Dnipro, and she recommended that they try the southern city of Uman. They met up there and, after waiting in line for hours, were able to refuel Kovalenko’s car. They then traveled for several days to the town of Volodymyr near the border with Poland.
When they arrived, Kovalenko said there were hundreds of cars trying to leave the country and people on foot.
“I saw a lot of women and a lot of people with young children walking 10.29 kilometers to the border, with temperatures of minus 5 degrees Celsius,” Kovalenko said.
Kovalenko and his family waited there for several days and finally crossed the border. In Ukraine, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay and fight, but Kovalenko has a documented medical condition that exempts him from military service.
Kovalenko knows he can’t stay with his friend in Poland forever, and he’s now trying to figure out his next step.
But mostly, he just wants this nightmare to be over.
“I wish I could go home, but it’s not safe,” Kovalenko said.