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Oakland University student arrives in Detroit after fleeing Ukraine with husband, baby

Posted at 11:25 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 00:16:14-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — An Oakland University graduate student who had been working in Ukraine is now safely in metro Detroit after a roughly four-day journey to safety.

Khrystyna Shchubelka is currently pursuing her second Ph.D., and is originally from Ukraine.

She and her husband Arun Mohan had been living peacefully in Western Ukraine with their 6-month-old baby until Russia launched its attack.

“First was kind of like a denial stage, like is this really happening,” Shchubelka said.

With a 6-month-old baby to care for, the couple made the quick decision to leave the country after the invasion began. With just a few suitcases and the clothes on their back, they made their way toward the border of Slovakia.

"People already started piling up on the border trying to leave,” Shchubelka said.

The couple took a picture showing a traffic jam over a mile from the border. At that point, they decided to travel the rest of the way on foot. Even though Mohan is not Ukrainian, there was a fear he might not be let through if he didn't have the proper papers.

“We already talked about that," Mohan said. "Like if they’re going to stop me, you and baby are going to go to Europe and I'm going to stay here.”

The couple did make it through then tried to coordinate with Oakland University professor Taras Oleksyk, who’s also Ukrainian, on the next steps.

“At some point she calls and says, 'Can you at least contact somebody on the Slovakian side?' and I said, 'Unfortunately, I don't know anyone on the Slovakian side,'” Oleksysk said.

The couple ended up taking a bus to the Czech Republic. After that, her professor along with his students and coworkers raised roughly $3,000 to get the couple a flight to Paris, then a flight to Detroit.

While the family is grateful to be safely in the U.S,, their fear and worry is far from over knowing friends and family back home are only in the beginning of a potentially long fight.

“We are not relieved at all because you cannot be relieved when you’re country is being bombed,” Shchubelka said.

“We're not the heroes in this story, the heroes are out there right now," Oleksyk said. "They’re fighting and they’re trying to stop this so it doesn't happen to the rest of the world.”