Montgomery woman fears for lives of Ukrainian family members

A Montgomery woman fears for lives of family members in Ukraine. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 9:06 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 14, 2022 at 11:06 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There have been many sleepless nights for one Montgomery woman who has relatives living in Ukraine.

Maria Kusznir fears every day for the lives her family members as Russian forces drop missiles closer and closer to their home.

“It is very scary,” Kusznir said. “It’s not happening to me specifically, but I’m sill living through every moment.”

Kusznir is constantly checking in on her family via phone calls and through Facebook Messenger. Most of her family lives in the west, primarily the city Lviv, a key location for Ukrainian refugees.

Her cousin Natalka lives near the Polish border, about 30 miles from the Ukrainian military base that was just bombed by Russian forces Sunday. Thirty-five people were killed and over 130 were injured.

In a phone call with her cousin, Natalka described the devastation left behind by Russian forces.

Kusznir translated her cousin’s message as “We hear sirens all night.”

She went on to translate, “There are many refugees. Children, mothers.”

Natalka went on to explain that 30 bombs were being targeted in their direction, but only eight made it. Twenty-two of the missiles were intercepted.

Kusznir said every horrible story told to her by her parents growing up is coming alive. She was born in America, but her parents are Ukrainian.

She said her father spent much of World War II as an older teen, escaping from the German army, who tried to draft him. He ultimately ended up in a displaced persons camp.

Her mother was a young child during WWII. Their family was escaping Bolshevik occupation when they were picked up by the Germans. They are Holocaust survivors.

Kusznir said her family came to the United States in 1949, after several long years on the run or in camps.

“This is what my mom and dad were fighting to prevent,” Kusznir said. “They’re going to start the tortures and killing just as they did when my mom and dad left. It’s happening again.”

“The people who die, it will be in the thousands. The people who are going to be tortured, thousands. Those that are going to survive this are going to have every liberty of theirs deprived,” she said.

Despite that fear though, some members of her family have not evacuated Ukraine as they stand in strong support of their country.

“There are many of us. We are not afraid,” Kusznir translated of Natalka.

“I’ve already lived through many wars. I will get through this one as well,” she translated.

“We have been fighting since I was a little kid to preserve our language, our heritage, our history, our literature, all of it, and we’ll do it again. We’re not going to let it happen. They’re strong because we believe,” Kusznir said.

Maria Kusznir talks about her relatives in Ukraine. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Kusznir had to end her conservation with Natalka rather abruptly as air raid sirens began alarming on the other line. Natalka needed to seek shelter.

Kusznir said all she can do right now is pray and hope from a distance.

“I hope that they can survive this. I hope that the killing will end. I hope that there’s no more torture or unnecessary deaths or illnesses. I hope that Ukraine can go back to living the peaceful multicultural life that it was living before this invasion,” Kusznir said.

Kusznir encourages people to donate to Ukrainians. Below is a list of some of the organizations helping with relief efforts.

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