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Ukrainian exchange student in U.S. describes parents’ reaction to invasion

▶ Watch Video: Ukrainian exchange student in U.S. whose parents are in eastern Ukraine checks in as Russia invades

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is particularly alarming for people in the United States who have friends or family in the country. One of them is Anya Hapotchenko, an exchange student whose parents live in eastern Ukraine, not far from the border with Russia.

The 19-year-old college freshman, who is studying in Dallas, said she has been in touch with her parents every day and is trying not to panic. So as soon as she heard Russian President Vladimir Putin announce what he called a “military operation” in Ukraine, she called her parents to warn them.

“It was 5 a.m. in the morning, Moscow time and Ukrainian time as well,” she told CBS News national correspondent Jericka Duncan.

“So basically, I woke them up with a phone call … and I told them that, ‘Well, you know what’s happening because I saw this information,’ and they were like, ‘Well, we don’t know. We were just sleeping,'” she said.

Hapotchenko said her parents’ home is roughly 60 miles from the Russian border, in the city of Starobilsk. They told her they had not heard any gunfire yet and were planning to leave Thursday, she said.

“My parents are making some progress in actually packing stuff and things to leave my hometown quite soon,” Hapotchenko said.

The official website of Ukraine’s parliament had been taken down, she said, probably so “people won’t receive any updates or any other information.”

Hapotchenko said living with Russia’s threat has been a part of daily life, but this is the first time her parents have ever decided to leave.

Her brother, niece and boyfriend are also in Ukraine. All were seeking safety on Thursday, she said.



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