Palm Coast residents from Ukraine are trying to keeping in touch with family members in Ukraine or refugee camps in Poland.
Palm Coast resident Kseniya Edwards' grandmother and other family members are in a small village in Ukraine, in a home with sporadic electricity and periodic internet access.
Edwards, who grew up in Ukraine, was able to phone her grandmother this morning, she said on Flagler Broadcasting's "Free for All Friday" on March 4.
"They’re just pretty much stuck there. The city’s functioning. It’s martial law, and a limited supply of food."
— ANDRE LARIN
"They currently have no electricity," Edwards said. "They were able to cook some food. There's quite a few people hiding in the home where my grandmother is, some family members as well, and some just people from the outside and a couple of kids."
Andre Larin, also of Palm Coast, has parents in Kyiv, while his sister and her son and daughter have made it to Poland.
He was heartened that the Ukrainian resistance has slowed the Russian invasion, but also concerned for his parents — his father is 58, and therefore subject to the order requiring all Ukrainian males 18 to 60 to stay in the country in case its armed forces need to call them up to fight. His mother wouldn't want to leave without his father.
"People who make their living in Ukraine, they can’t really leave right now, no matter how dangerous it is," he said. "At this point they’re just pretty much stuck there. The city’s functioning. It’s martial law, and a limited supply of food."
At this point, he said, the country's Territorial Defense Forces seem to have enough people, making it unlikely that his father will be conscripted.
His sister’s employer has an office in Poland, and she’s trying to find out if she’ll be able to work there. If not, the family may try to move to Florida.
Edwards has been trying to touch base with her family members in Ukraine every day, and said she’d encouraged them to hunker down rather than try to move.
“We do have ... somewhat of a bunker underneath the home, without many windows, just so that they can — if they hear anything, sirens or bombings — that they should just always stay there,” she said.
Her family members seemed to be holding up fairly well so far, she said, and her grandmother has been weaving some rugs for her.
"They were pretty upbeat. I don't think my 77-year-old grandma really understands the severity of everything, unfortunately," Edwards said. "But it's actually fortunately, on the other hand, because she is an older person and I definitely don't want her to stress out much on it." Edwards said. "But they're holding up strong."
Edwards also has family members in Russia, she said.
“They’re afraid, tremendously,” she said. “They are taking money out of their banks. They are stocking up on some supplies. They’re trying to make sure if, God forbid, something happens there — where the country begins to crumble from within— that they can survive. ... We’re going to pray and hope for the best; we have no choice.”
She praised Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
“He’s our hero,” she said. “He is a normal human being who understands people. ... So he’s loved by many, by many, many, many people.”
Larin is trying to determine how best to help.
He’s planning to travel to Poland to see his sister and niece and nephew, and wondering if he might be able to assist at the refugee camps there, or help Ukrainians settle in the U.S.
“I feel like helping in this moment,” he said.
Larin, a hospitality professional who studied restaurant management, is hoping to get his real estate license to help fellow Ukrainians find homes in Florida, and also wants to open a Ukrainian cafe in Palm Coast.
He remarked on the suddenness of the Russian attack and the unity with which Ukraine’s citizens have responded.
“I go to Ukraine every summer,” he said. “It was just fine. It was getting better and better every year. It’s had its issues, but it was improving. ... In Ukraine, people are really united. They know that it’s pretty much an existential threat. A lot of people have a lot to lose.”