CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Corpus Christi resident Oleksandr Zhalkovskyi was optimistic when we first spoke to him Monday, that his home country of Ukraine would remain free of Russian invaders.
But when news broke Thursday that the invasion was on, the reality of the situation hit him hard.
“That was a devastating moment," Zhalkovskyi said.
He's lived in the United States for about ten years and moved to Corpus Christi from Utah with his wife in 2015.
Since then, the couple has had two children.
But aside from the four of them, Zhalkovskyi's entire family remains in Ukraine.
He's spoken to many of them since the invasion started.
"They were scared," Zhalkovskyi said. "They were terrified, of course. But most of all they didn’t know what’s going to happen."
He hasn't received any reports of family members getting hurt or killed in the conflict, but his Friday morning phone call with his mom got interrupted by a close call.
“While she was talking, the siren went off which meant that there was a possible air strike," Zhalkovskyi said.
He says she took shelter in her basement, and so far, the nearest blast from military weaponry was ten miles from her home.
Ukraine's military is badly outnumbered by the Russians, but Zhalkovskyi believes those fighting for his homeland have a psychological advantage.
"We are defending our country," he said. "That’s what matters. We’re not trying to take anything. And exactly that has led us to a great defense."
Zhalkovskyi's wife is not Ukrainian, but she's trying to support him and his family as they deal with the uncertainty of war.
“It’s been really difficult," Noelle Zhalkovskyi said. "And it’s hard, because we feel kind of helpless. And we’re just doing everything we can like saying our prayers and donating where we can."
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