An invasion traps a New York programmer away from his pregnant wife

Vitalii Khatiushyn’s phone is full of his life in New York: photos of his pregnant wife Katerina and their cat in their apartment on Roosevelt Island; a scan of the baby they are expecting in early May; views of the Manhattan skyline from his office on Wall Street and recordings of routes he walks through Central Park.

And then there’s the fateful plane ticket that brought him to Ukraine just three days before the invasion of Russia, and the return trip that went unused as war engulfed the country, all the flights were canceled and he focused on evacuating his parents to the European Union.

His mother, who is recovering from cancer, and his father are now safe in Lithuania, but Khatiushyn (35) is trapped as fighting rages in Ukraine and all men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country and should take up arms. against the invader.

The software engineer wants to help Ukraine but thinks he can do it better by raising funds and rallying support at his home in New York, where Katerina (33) is expecting her first child in two months and is now wondering when he returns from a nation that Russia seems intent on destroying.

“It’s the most painful thing, to see her crying every day, and she can’t sleep properly because of everything that’s going on; I’m not there and his parents are still in Kryvyi Rih,” says Khatiushyn, referring to the southeastern industrial city where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy grew up.

“There are fears that Russia will hit him very hard because this is his hometown.”

The couple’s life, so far a very Ukrainian success story, was turned upside down along with that of the whole nation by a brutal Russian attack that killed thousands of civilians and drove some two million abroad.

Vitalii and Katerina Khatiushyn. He’s been trapped in Ukraine since the Russian invasion last month, and at their New York home, she’s expecting their first child in May. Photo courtesy of Vitalii Khatiushyn

Khatiushyn is the son of a steelworker from Mariupol, a hard port on the Sea of ​​Azov where hundreds of thousands of people have been trapped for a week without electricity, running water, telephones or internet connections, while Russia has bombarded the town and thwarted attempts to evacuate the inhabitants.

Assault

He left home to study in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city and a major center for education, engineering and culture, where apartment blocks and university buildings now lie in ruins after the assault of the Kremlin.

“We moved to Denver, Colorado in 2011 after I was offered a job there. But Katerina and I discussed whether to leave Kharkiv or not. neighborhood that was heavily bombed,” he said.

“It’s so horrible to see what happened in Kharkiv. We know about all those destroyed places and buildings.

Khatiushyn flew to Ukraine to give her parents a week in Kiev as the trip would be difficult after the baby arrived.

“Like most people, I thought it was all a bluff,” he says of the rising tensions before Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war.

“There were bad signs – my flight here was cancelled, but it was easy to change. It was my dad’s first time to Kyiv, and he enjoyed it and thought it was beautiful Then my wife called in the early hours of February 24 [when Russian attacked]. She was panicking and we could hear explosions in the distance and we had to figure out what to do.

Khatiushyn managed to bring her mother, who has just finished chemotherapy, and her father to Poland and then to Lithuania, where they are staying with relatives.

“That’s the only good thing that came out of it. I can’t imagine that they are there now in Mariupol and unable to contact them.

He traveled to the border with Moldova in an attempt to leave Ukraine, but was turned away under martial law and full military mobilization which were introduced to help the country of 41 million contain the huge Russian army.

“For now, I can work remotely to pay rent in New York and everything else. But the money I spend on housing here could go to the Ukrainian army,” says Khatiushyn.

“If I was in New York, I could bring tons of money and support to Ukraine – that’s my skill and that’s what a lot of Ukrainians do abroad. I could do so much more to help Ukraine if I was there.

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