The villages around kyiv are now battlefields marked with destroyed houses and burnt-out vehicles everywhere.
“For me, I feel like if my city is bombed, it’s like a part of my childhood is being destroyed,” Olga Frayman said. “The first few days we were just sitting here in shock and disbelief – and how surreal it all is.”
Frayman lives in Maple Grove and closely watches the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She shared many photos of her family members in Kyiv with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, including her 93-year-old grandmother, Lina.
“Since that, she hasn’t been able to leave, so the whole family can’t leave, they can’t evacuate, they can’t go anywhere,” Frayman says.
The mother-of-three moved with her family to Minnesota in 1992, when she was 14.
“I think the main reason my parents wanted to move here was because of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986,” Frayman recalls. “They wanted us to live in an area with better environmental conditions.”
Right now, however, she says her loved ones in Kyiv are experiencing a new normal after more than five weeks of war.
“My aunt used to tell me how hard it is to get around,” notes Frayman. “How you have to be really determined when traveling around town.”
Russian snipers and soldiers disguised as civilians are feared. Food and medicine are hard to come by, Frayman says.
“My aunt actually stayed for a while in a neighborhood bar that was turned into a bomb shelter,” she explains. “They were running a self-help network out of that bar. So they cooked food for the soldiers guarding the city.
Frayman’s concerns come as Ukrainian troops cautiously retake territory north of kyiv.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warns that Russian troops may have left behind mines as potential booby traps in the area, making it dangerous for civilians.
Frayman says his family members in Kyiv are in a relatively safe area in the center of the city. Most people, she explains, try to stay off the streets as much as possible.
Frayman says amid the refugee crisis, his family in Ukraine is torn apart by the move.
“We keep asking them, ‘Please evacuate, go ahead,'” Frayman said. “At the moment there are no plans to go anywhere. Nobody can leave my grandmother behind. My aunt’s family is there, her parents are there too.
She says one of the hardest things is being so far away.
But Frayman says his family in Minnesota stays in close contact, and even before the Russian invasion his father called his mother every Sunday – a family tradition.
Meanwhile, she says her family here is taking an active role in Ukrainian community events, raising money for emergency aid and medical supplies.
Frayman hopes his family — and other families in Ukraine itself — will be safe.
“All of us, whether you were born in Ukraine or your family left Ukraine two generations ago, we all feel that Ukraine is our family,” she says. “We are all marching towards the common goal of victory for Ukraine and peace for Ukraine.”