'It's really hard to exist here': Milwaukee woman shares her family's journey as Ukraine-Russia war hits 2-year mark

NOW: ’It’s really hard to exist here’: Milwaukee woman shares her family’s journey as Ukraine-Russia war hits 2-year mark

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)--This Saturday marks two years since the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine.

Since Feb. 24, 2022, daily attacks have taken place in the battleground site--bombs hitting schools, hospitals and civilian buildings becoming the new norm. Still, many Ukrainians say hope prevails.

"It's really hard to exist here and now when your mind is somewhere else," said Karina Tweedell. "My grandma actually ended up passing away on her own in Donetsk; we couldn't even come see her for the funeral."

Tweedell is one of over 10,000 Ukrainians living in Wisconsin, according to the nonprofit Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc.

"I think we just refused to see that this could last for so long," she said.

Tweedell told CBS 58 that she grew up in Donetsk, Ukraine, an area that's been occupied by Russia since 2014.

"The war really came to the…backyard of the house where I was living and my parents saw tanks when they finally decided to relocate inside of Ukraine, so they moved to Kyiv then," Tweedell explained.

Her family moved to the capital in 2016 after her parents lost their house and their business.

"At that time it wasn't even called, officially, for (the) longest time Russia was denying their involvement," she went on to say. "Of course, having family there, they saw the soldiers, they saw the tanks."

Tweedell said that after she moved to the U.S. in 2007 as a college exchange student, she carried guilt for years, for leaving her loved ones behind in such an unstable state.

Luckily, her immediate family now lives in the Milwaukee area.

"My uncle lives in Kyiv and on the daily they have air raids happening that last for several hours and I was just recently talking to my uncle and he was saying that they're all very used to the idea that today might be their last day," she added.

Tweedell is an active board member for Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc., which was founded a little less than a month after the full-scale war broke out to promote Ukrainian culture and provide support abroad.

"It's been just really rewarding to be able to do something, I know it's not a lot," she said.

Many Ukrainians say we cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed halfway around the world.

"We're not isolated, and we can't pretend that we are separate living in a bubble because we are all a part of a global community," Tweedell said.

A rally was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 24 at the Orange Sunburst in O'Donnell Park for community members to stand in unity and solidarity with Ukraine.

"Over 180 cities around the world are uniting in 'Believe in Ukraine Campaign,' and we're a part of it," Tweedell said. "It's really exciting that Milwaukee is able to participate in that…(if) this is not stopped as soon as possible in Ukraine, then there are really big concerns that the war will expand and will touch us a lot more directly than it's touching us now."

Share this article: