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Coloradan in Poland houses Ukrainian refugees

Over half a million people have fled Ukraine
Posted at 11:21 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 08:19:16-05

CAÑON CITY — A drive out of Kyiv, Ukraine usually takes about 15 minutes, but in the middle of Russia's invasion, it can take ten hours.

Over half a million people have fled the country since Russia invaded, and the majority of them have made their way to Poland.

"I remember I woke up, I was staring at the sunrise through my window and I thought - Maybe this is the last time I can see this picture," said Alex Olin, a Ukrainian refugee, recounting the moments before she decided to leave the country.

Joanna Rak is a medical student from Cañon City and UCCS alumna, who is studying in Kraków, Poland.

Olin and Rak connected over social media, and Rak welcomed Olin into her home on Monday night when Olin made her way through Poland's border.

"Seeing how much Poland has been able to help it's neighbor has really like, inspired me," said Rak.

For Olin, escaping Ukraine is bittersweet, while so many others are left behind.

She says crowds of people were pushing against each other, hoping to fill the last seat on a bus leaving town. The bus driver plucked Olin's passport from her hands and let her get on.

"In that moment, time was so slow, and I saw the faces of people who regret that this is me, and I also regret that this is me because I almost feel guilty because people were scared."

Now, safely inside an apartment in Poland, Olin and Rak are working tirelessly on social media to spread information and awareness about what is happening inside Ukraine.

"America should not talk about refugees. America should talk about people who are there and what is actually going on right there," said Olin.

The two say there is plenty of food and clothing being donated to Ukraine, but civilians and forces desperately need more medical supplies.

"People are getting wounded at alarming rates, and if there is any hospital in Colorado that can figure out how to donate medical supplies... I mean, this is all still such a new thing and we are trying to figure out how to get things across the border," said Rak.

The women are working to put together a verified list of ways to help Ukraine from anywhere in the world. News 5 will have the list available here when it is complete.
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