School alumna Cyndia Chung takes a picture with her husband in front of Dolmabahçe Palace in İstanbul, Turkey.

Escaping Ukraine: Alumna aids family

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Feb. 24, 2022. Lying on their bed in Turkey, alumna Cyndia Chung and her husband switch on their hotel TV. But instead of the usual programs, the couple is met with countless different headlines delivering the same message: Russia had officially declared war on Ukraine. Making matters worse, there were reports of explosions around several major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, where several of their family members had been living.  

“It was unimaginable,” Chung said. “We immediately called our nephews, but they either didn’t have a signal, or too many were trying to get through to loved ones that the call didn’t go through.” 

It would be three days before the couple could contact their family again, and even then, communication was inconsistent.

“Because our nephews are in the warzone, they change paths, and they change their minds a lot about where they want to go,” Chung said. “Without proper transportation because roads are closed or blown up, or they are stuck in traffic, it is difficult for them to go anywhere even when we’re trying to help route them to safety.”

When their family fled, they were unable to bring anything other than some clothes,  a cell phone, and a little cash. After finding a refuge, they were able to contact Chung again who tried her best to help them. 

“We tried to send money into their bank accounts, but when they went to the bank, they couldn’t get money out,” Chung said. “There was no money in the ATM. One cousin didn’t want to leave. He was not sure what to do. Our nephews tried to convince him. We tried to convince him. He was panicking. So his brothers had to leave him.” 

Upon contacting his brothers, Chung and her husband attempted to route them to Poland after hearing that American troops were stationed there to rescue refugees. The brothers had to walk hundreds of miles and were forced to sleep in abandoned underground train stations. 

“We tried to help them find trains that were still running to get out of Ukraine,” Chung said. “They luckily got on one of the last trains.” 

Currently, Chung’s family members are residing in Slovakia as refugees. They are having a hard time adjusting to their new harsh environment. Because there are so many other refugees, the brothers are cramped in confined spaces, and their anxiety continues to rise as they are unsure about the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

“Our nephews are all very glad and thankful they got out of Ukraine alive,” Chung said. “Although people have been very welcoming and caring in Slovakia, they are limited to a certain area and have no privacy as everyone is cramped together with military and police guarding them. Right now, a lot of people are praying for the people in Ukraine.”

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