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Utahns wait for update from loved ones trapped after Russian invasion

Feb 24, 2022, 7:18 PM
(A firefighter works amongst debris in the aftermath of Russian shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thu...
(A firefighter works amongst debris in the aftermath of Russian shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Associated Press)
(A firefighter works amongst debris in the aftermath of Russian shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing a lot of panic for Utahns with family caught in the crossfire.  Some people say communicating with their loved ones in Ukraine is getting increasingly harder to do, and all they can do is wait for any kind of update.

Russian invasion

People like Lehi resident Katie Adams-Anderton haven’t been able to sleep since the invasion began.  She has a cousin who is a pro-Ukrainian Russian living in the city of Kharkiv, close to the country’s eastern border.  Adams-Anderton remembers getting a frightened and furious text from her cousin who could see and hear the explosions close to her city.

The message read, “There are explosions everywhere and rockets are coming, including my city.  I can’t believe it.”

She says her cousin thought about running away into the countryside to escape the attack, but it appeared that the countryside was being hit harder than the cities were.  Adams-Anderton can only guess it was an attempt to keep Ukrainians from running away.  Her cousin took shelter in the safest place she could.

“She had to go into a basement, and undisclosed basement, with a bunch of other Ukrainians,” said Adams-Anderton.

Since then, communication has been hit-or-miss.  Adams-Anderton says she has been able to get a few updates from her cousin from time to time, but every communications feels like it could be their last.

She said, “Every time we talked, it was like every message we got said ‘I love you.’”

Every time Adams-Anderton sees an updated casualty list from the Russian invasion, it sends a wave of panic over her.  She says she’s growing increasingly frustrated at the media and Americans talking about the invasion. She doesn’t believe most people see the death toll for what it truly is.

“People don’t look at those [casualty numbers] and understand that could be my family in a matter of hours or minutes.  I don’t know,” she said.

Attacks reach farther than some people expected

Other Utah families were surprised to see attacks were happening all over Ukraine, not just places close to the Russian border.  Vasyl Dyshkant has family members across that country. Even his loved ones close to the Polish border are seeing Russian forces invade.  His wife, Kaitlyn Larsen-Dyshkant, says their family on the eastern portion of the country seem to be in the most danger. And they can’t confirm if they’re safe or not.

She said, “Unfortunately, the internet is down in a lot of eastern Ukraine.  So, our ability to communicate is drastically impacted.”

Vasyl is especially worried about his uncle who is essentially trapped in his home in the city of Kherson.

Dyshkant said, “They were trying to leave Kherson but all the ways are closed, now.  They have no way to leave Kherson, at this point.”

The tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been ongoing for many years, according to Dyshkant. And he believes they reach a boiling point every few years.  Now, he’s just hoping that his family in Ukraine survives the invasion.

He said, “It makes me sad that my family is in danger because of our neighbors who are supposed to be our partners, not our enemies.”

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Utahns wait for update from loved ones trapped after Russian invasion