Chicago influencers are using her platform to shed light on the difficulties faced by Ukrainians trying to flee a war-torn country in Russia’s invasion.
“The whole country is experiencing this, no one is safe,” Olga Tsoi said.
Born and raised in Ukraine, Tsoi has called Chicago his hometown for over a decade. She returned to her homeland a few days before New Year’s Eve, visited her family and had her knee surgery. Tsoi delayed her plan to return to Chicago when her recovery began to take longer than expected.
On February 24, when Russian bombs and missiles fell on Ukraine, a 31-year-old mother and her mother were ousted.
“This seems very surreal,” Tsoi said in an interview with Reuters. “This is something from a history book many years ago.”
Tsoi says his recovering knee hasn’t reached 100% yet, but he hasn’t reconsidered running away to relieve the stress of his journey with crutches.
“It’s crazy that your body is in constant horror and constant fighting or flight mode,” Tsui said.
Tsoi and her mother spent the night in a bomb shelter in the basement of a school in Kyiv.
Thanks to the support of Tsoy’s sister in Turkey, they were able to secure a seat on the bus to the Ukrainian city of Lviv, 40 miles from the Polish border.
Eighteen hours later, there were several blockades and military checkpoints, and they arrived in Lviv. There the second bus arrived and arrived at the border.
After a day worried about their acceptance in Poland, Tsoi and her mother entered Krakow, Poland late Sunday night.
“We only know us here, of the people we know, our families, and the people,” Tsui said. “We were the only ones who could achieve that.”
With far more than 40,000 followers on Instagram, Tsui began recording her journey and shared that she and other Ukrainians were trying to survive the Russian invasion.
“I couldn’t take off my shoes because my legs were so swollen,” Tsoi said. “This was … hard for us. I can’t imagine anyone traveling with a child.”
Tsoi’s father, grandmother, and the rest of her family live in southern Ukraine, where they are evacuating to the basement.
“And just being here, it’s like. It’s unrealistic for people to casually walk around here,” said Tsui. “As you know, I feel guilty about sitting here and drinking coffee. You know what I’m saying? It’s crazy. I know the whole country is justice. How can I be so comfortable? My dad is in the basement where he’s spending the night and I know I’m in a hotel here. But it’s really hard. “
Tsoi says he plans to fly to Chicago, hoping to seek asylum for his mother.
“I don’t even know if I can take her to the United States to be with us,” Tsui said. “Where is she going if that is not an option? I can’t leave her in another country, I have to bring her back to my house, my house, therefore. There is no other option. So what about everyone else when you start thinking about it? What about my dad and everyone else? My loved ones and the rest of my family? I don’t know. “