CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Aksiniy Petrovksa is 14-years-old. Up until a few weeks ago, she lived in Ukraine.
“It’s like….hell,” she described her home in Nikolaev, Ukraine.
“I woke up and I was like nervous, like something’s wrong,” she described about the hours before Russia first bombed Ukraine.
Around lunchtime on that day, Petrovska made her way to Poland with her mom and 9-year-old sister, having to go two days without food and water at the Polish border.
They arrived in Corpus Christi on the Island just a few weeks ago. Petrovska’s grandmother, Olga Vernor, was born in the Soviet Union. She moved to the U.S. in 2004, coming to live on the Island in 2016.
“First it was feeling hopeless and then you start understanding that you have to do something,” Vernor said with tears in her eyes.
Vernor could not take in all of her family members from Ukraine. The young men in her family, including Petrovska’s father, had to stay back in Ukraine to fight, and her parents had to stay because of their old age.
“And what do you feel like you need to do?” we asked her about the rest of her family still in Ukraine.
“Save….just save them,” she replied.
She said while she is still worried about the men in her family fighting, she feels a sense of pride.
“We’re very very proud, yes, it’s basically what they have to do,” she said.
Vernor and her family receive most of their information through social media, saying she watches the news, but social media has a more personal connection to the people she loves.
“If we get the message that they survived this day…that’s how we’re moving to the next one,” she said.
It’s not just Vernor and her family supporting Ukraine. If you take a stroll down Vernor’s street, you’ll see it decorated with blue and yellow ribbons, Ukraine’s colors, placed around mailboxes and palm trees for Vernor’s family when they arrived a few weeks ago.
“I’m really blessed to have wonderful neighbors, to have people around me who are willing to help and asking me ‘what can we do for you?’”
Vernor told us a way to help her people was to donate to the Ukrainian embassy in the U.S.
“Just pray, be supportive,” she added.
In the meantime, Petrovska and Vernor are staying optimistic that the crisis in Ukraine will soon come to an end.
“They have to believe in the good things and stay together and help each other,” Petrovksa said.
Mirroring her granddaughters comment, Vernor said with passion, “There is always hope. Always hope…for the better future.”