Ukrainian families escape the war in their country by coming to Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash.– Six Ukrainian families whose homes were destroyed or taken over by the Russian military just arrived in Spokane.

As they work to figure out what’s next, they’re relying on friends, family and in some cases strangers.

Arytem Ryzhkov, his wife Irina and their four children are in Spokane now. Nearly a month ago, they were forced to leave their home in Kharkiv where they hid in a basement for a week.

They didn’t have any food, water or access to the city.

A friend offered to help them get to the United States.

“We didn’t have to think about it. Thought about it for 30 minutes and said ‘yes,'” Ryzhkov said. “They [Russian forces] completely took ownership over their home and they have nothing to return to.”

A gym near their home was hit by a bomb. The aftershocks shattered the windows of their apartment. Soon after, the freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst.

The journey to get out was not easy. They started heading out of Ukraine on March 1. Ryzhkov said his family was traveling in two different cars. He was in one with his daughter and heard shots coming from somewhere.

“When I realized they were shooting at the cars, I opened my door and jumped out of the vehicle while my vehicle was still moving and my daughter jumped out right after me,” Ryzhkov said.

They started screaming they were civilians and the gunfire stopped. But, something else was wrong. Irina said she felt a burning sensation on her spine.

She was shot.

“The bullet literally bounced off her back, so it left a wound, but it didn’t actually go through into her body. I would like to honor my wife because she is so brave just completely shaking this off and continuing to travel away,” Ryzhkov said.

The family left everything behind to escape. They traveled through six countries and took six planes to get to Spokane.

Ryzhkov’s family and the five others that are safe in Spokane said they’re grateful for the friends they have here. Their family is a larger family and it took a lot of planning and organizational skills to get them to safety.

The Roller Valley is accepting donations to help the families that escaped to the Inland Northwest. You can donate things like furniture or anything that would help them build a home. A trailer will be on the side of the building. You can drop off donations during normal business hours. More information can be found here.

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