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Group rallies in Phoenix, supporting loved ones trying to survive in Ukraine

A group rallied for Ukraine at Steele Indian School Park Sunday, where more than 100 people came out to support the country.
Published: Mar. 27, 2022 at 7:47 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A group rallied for Ukraine at Steele Indian School Park Sunday, where more than 100 people came out to support the country. Many of the people at the event were from Ukraine and still have family there.

Just days ago. Nataly Podolnikova said her 74-year-old mom made the trip to Arizona, all the way from her home in Ukraine. It was a scary journey. “It’s really simply dangerous,” said Podolnikova. “It’s a shooting. It’s active shooting, and if you are driving by car, you do not know where it could be. I couldn’t imagine what she survived.”

Podolnikova is thankful her mom got here safely, but she worries about other family and friends still in Ukraine. She remembers one moment she heard bombs exploding when she was talking to her cousin over the phone. “I heard everything,” said Podolnikova. “I heard how her kids were crying. She was trying to calm them down. I wish I never had this experience.”

Mariia Vitrukh came to Arizona to study at ASU, but she is from Ukraine. She was planning to be in Ukraine now, but then conflict broke out. “My parents have been under shelling for the past two weeks,” said Vitrukh.

She knows of 21 other Ukrainian ASU students in the Valley for school, also unable to go back home after the semester. “We can go to Poland and cross the border, but it’s not going to be safe, and most students don’t have homes anymore,” said Vitrukh.

Each day she goes to bed and wakes up wondering if her loved ones are still alive. “It’s hard because these are people I just had coffee with like three months ago when I was in Ukraine, and now I realize they may die any moment, defending my country,” said Vitrukh. “Every morning I wake up, and I think maybe it’s time to just pack my stuff and go back home, and then I talk to friends, and they say, ‘you would be more productive here by just doing what you can.’”

“I feel, like, helpless,” said Podolnikova, who urges people to send donations to Ukraine to help support the people there.”I know the President promised to help Ukrainian refugees and to accept people here, so we still hope they will get some support financial, medical and legal support in the U.S.”

Vitrukh said the rallies give everyone a chance to connect and support her homeland. “I think the first week was the most challenging because you’re in shock, and then there is the moment when you just pull yourself together, and you realize you just have to keep going,” said Vitrukh.