Local woman worries about family in Ukraine as Russian invasion continues

Can you imagine being 55 hundred miles from family and knowing they are fighting to survive.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Can you imagine being 5,500 miles from family and knowing they are fighting to survive? Knowing that the winds of war are blowing -- that Russian troops are marching at the doorstep to your family’s home?

Lena Skalska, a local Jacksonville woman, has loved ones in Ukraine. Her father and family are in Kyiv. She copes with not only the daily fear but a sense of helplessness knowing they are in the middle of a war that has bombs falling near their home in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Armed Russian troops and armored vehicles marching past their home.

She calls daily at midnight Jacksonville time, 7 a.m. in Ukraine, anxiously waiting for a member of her family to answer hoping they survived the onslaught from the night before.

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“All I want to know at this point is if they’re alive -- if they’re okay,” said an emotional Skalska. “I check on them during the day and what is it they tell me? They have food. They have shelter. They have electricity. They have internet and everything is working. They have supplies. So, this is the most important thing. Like are you alive is my first question, are you there?”

Lena finds comfort in the fact that she has been able to talk with them frequently, at least for now. Hearing their voices assuages her fears, a bit! Still, they tell her of the rigors of life in this uncertain time of war on the streets of Kyiv. But they also tell her stories of courage they witness among their fellow Ukrainians.

“In the past four days (they) saw so much courage and with civilians lining up to join the territorial defense units,” said Skalska.  “(They) saw people coming back to Ukraine from abroad to fight with the Ukrainian President. (We saw him) in a completely different light. A true leader, a diplomat. Somebody who comes in every morning during the day talking to the population, updating everybody on what’s going on.”

Lena last visited Ukraine in November for her mother’s funeral. Back then she saw Russian tanks in the area. But never in her wildest dreams did she anticipate Putin would invade the capital city.

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“I really thought that they would just escalate the fighting in the east and maybe take those regions somehow,” said Lena Skalska. “But the bombing of Kiev of the capital city, it’s one of the oldest cities in Europe, with all of the embassies, the museums, the incredible architecture and it was just so incredible. There is no reason to go to war with us.”

“So, I was struggling with the answer to the question why, why would they go against us,” asked Skalska. “Why would they um do a full-scale war? And I couldn’t answer that question because there is no reason.”

Lena is proud of her family and Ukrainian countrymen for their steadfast resolve. For their ability to fight and survive. And what she calls the unrelenting fortitude to stand up to a man they call a bully and fight back against Russian troops who threaten their homeland and their freedom. A freedom she says they refuse to relinquish.


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This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.