AUSTIN, TX – Aleksei Nikolin tries to hold a crying, squirming toddler in his cramped car as he video chats with a FOX 7 reporter. “Yeah. You see they’re crying because we’re tired. We spend many hours sleeping in the car with no direction.” he says.
Nikolin, an employee of Peeklogic, an Austin-based computer company, fled Ukraine with his family two to four days ago. He says he doesn’t know what day they left – they lost track of time.
“Every day we live in a new place. We flee from the previous place because they are afraid that the places they left the previous night will be occupied by Russian troops,” he explained.
The family, originally from Kiev, first moved to Moldova. Nikolin says it took them “15 hours just to get through two miles.”
As Nikolin spoke with FOX 7 Austin on Thursday, the family prepared to spend another night stuck in their car at a border crossing. They try to get to a friend’s apartment in Romania.
“All night in the car. It was dangerous because we were afraid of thieves, of burglary, because we have all our things, our whole house in our car. That’s all we have. The car is our home.”
Although worried about the things he packed, Nikolin is more troubled about what he was forced to leave behind. His brother’s family doesn’t have a car.
“[My brother has] three children (approximately) the same age as mine in Kyiv and my heart cries because he is not able to run away from Kyiv with his children.”
The bridges surrounding his grandfather’s town outside Kiev were bombed, making access almost impossible. “[My grandfather] now lives without electricity and without food. He only has potatoes and water,” he said.
Nikolin, his wife, Katheryna, and their three children – Sofia, 7, Damian, 5, and Emilia, 2, spent at least three nights in an air-raid shelter before leaving Kyiv.
“We started coughing and sneezing and it says maybe we’ll die in these little shelters because it’s hard.” he said.
On Saturday, a rocket hit a residential building near the family’s apartment. The Associated Press reports that at least six people were injured in the attack. Nikolin took several photos to document the incident.
“Truth is the weapon,” he said.
Yet he admits he struggles to find the words to explain the war to his own children. “I try not to say what’s going on.” he said, adding “I want them to live in a peaceful place, a peaceful time.”
CEO and founder of Peeklogic and a native of Ukraine, Sergii Grushi, told FOX 7 Austin “It’s hard to see their faces, their suffering and how worried they are.”
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