Ukrainian relatives make it to Red Lake Falls, bring to light stories of war from their hometown
A Red Lake Falls family is breathing a sigh of relief tonight. Two of their Ukrainian relatives are now on American soil. Their neighbors from back home are sending pictures of unbelievable destruction, and the Russian troops they are capturing.
Editor's note: This story contains graphic depictions of the war in Ukraine.
RED LAKE FALLS, Minn. — Heeding the warnings from American media, Katie Dolan and her husband, Serhii Kadyrov, got his mother and brother to go to Poland before the Russian invasion of Ukraine started. Before Russian troops could cross the border, Tatiana and Pavlo were already in Warsaw. They made it to Red Lake Falls last week after Dolan spent weeks working with attorneys and experts on getting the two to safety.
Pictures from their arrival show Tatiana and Pavlo smiling with the rest of the stateside family — happy to finally be in Minnesota. Tatiana finally met some grandchildren too. One thing that surprised the two Ukrainians was how helpful everyone has been so far.
Tatiana and Pavlo spoke to WDAY News through Kadyrov, who provided translations from Ukrainian to English.
"We get money and donations and stuff for housing," Tatiana said. "We got a bunch of clothes from the church, too. They were very helpful."
"I feel way better after getting up here, because I was pretty stressed before getting to the United States," Pavlo said. "Right now, I'm very happy, and it's so good to see my family and be safe."
While happy to be far from the war zone, they are still worried about the family and friends they still have in Ukraine.
"We still have my husband and mom there," Tatiana said through Kadyrov. "It's very bad what's going on. This is worse than the war in Chechneya, Afghanistan and Georgia. With Russia, it's the worst, because it's the most global."
Their village of Sytnyaky is west of Kyiv. Even in such a small community, the Russian troops are brutal.
"It's been a pretty big fight there, right close to our house, down below about a couple hundred feet in a big open space," Pavlo described. "They've been fighting back and forth there. So many cars got destroyed. One family was shot by Russians, just killed."
Kadyrov keeps in touch through an old neighbor and some friends. They shared pictures of the neighbors capturing Russian soldiers, having them blindfolded in the back of a bus. They are taking their passports and their tanks.
One such neighbor described an interaction they had with a Russian soldier to Kadyrov.
"They asked just like, 'Why did you shoot civilians?" Kadyrov said. "And he was like, 'Oh, it was just fun.'"
He is hearing horrifying stories from the people he knows in his home country. One friend told him about a Dumpster filled with the bodies of children.
Most of the people who live in their hometown are trying to get away. The ones staying behind are fighting. Several homes are destroyed, and other buildings are flattened in a pile of rubble. This includes a well known restaurant and hotel where Kadyrov once celebrated a friend's wedding.
"It was like the nicest, beautiful restaurant, hotel, everybody celebrate weddings and stuff like that," Kadyrov recalled. "And right behind that, (a) big school."
Missiles are scattered, with some in need of being disarmed.
"Only Russian rockets," Kadyrov clarified. "All Ukrainian rockets, they go in Russian tanks."
They are trying to raise money for night vision goggles and drones to send back to their community, all while keeping in touch with the family still in Ukraine, especially Tatiana's husband.
"He's not safe because nobody is safe in that country," Tatiana said. "Half of Ukraine is completely shot, and the other half is in danger, even 10 miles to Poland."
Serhii is still keeping in close touch with the family, friends and neighbors still in Ukraine, hoping for the best and supporting them in whatever way he can.