Ukrainian US college grad: ‘We just had to leave’ after Russian missile strike

Olga Shevchenko's coffee shop in Kharkiv was destroyed in Russian bombing

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Olga Shevchenko owned a coffee shop in Ukraine’s second-largest city until a Russian airstrike destroyed it on March 1. 

"I'm not easily scared, [but] we don't know when we're going to get bombed or die," Shevchenko told Fox News in an interview Tuesday.   

"We have bombings every day," Shevchenko continued. "Air bombings and missile attacks from several sides of the city."

Shevchenko opened Central Coffee in 2016, just steps away from Kharkiv’s Freedom Square and several government buildings. 

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For six years, Central Coffee served as a meeting point for locals and was often frequented by the senior citizens who lived in the apartment building above.

But on the sixth day of Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine, a Russian missile slammed into one of the city’s large administrative buildings, destroying Central Coffee.  The city has since been bombarded relentlessly by a brutal Russian air campaign.

"All of the businesses in that area were destroyed," Shevchenko said. "It always amazes me how fast everything can change." 

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Initially Shevchenko had no intention of leaving the city she calls home. She spent the next week using her shop’s resources to make food for those in need. But as the Russian air assault of Kharkiv continued, it took a toll on her mental health.

"I think it just gets to you," Shevchenko said. "When I hear, you know, any loud sounds, I feel like it's the bombing and even since we left, we've been driving around, and I hear like a car going loud, and I think it's a plane."

On March 7, after a fighter jet knocked out her neighborhood’s power, Shevchenko, along with her mother, Elena, and friend Svetlana, decided to leave Kharkiv behind.

"You lose everything all at once," Shevchenko said. "Your friends and your home and your job and your business and your money and just everything." 

Shevchenko studied at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She later worked in Alexandria, Virginia, before returning to home to Ukraine.

Olga's coffee shop was destroyed by Russian bombs.

Olga's coffee shop was destroyed by Russian bombs. (Used with permission )

Olga's coffee shop was destroyed by Russian bombs.

Olga's coffee shop was destroyed by Russian bombs. (Used with permission )

"I feel like the American people can understand how painful it is to leave your home," Elena told Fox News during a stop on their journey away from Kharkiv. "I have a lot of anger because who's going to pay for that destruction that we have in our lives? Who is going to be responsible for all the  things that we lost? Our businesses? Our houses?"

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Elena, who prefers not to reveal her last name, grew up in a time when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. Her childhood was spent under communist rule. 

"When I went to America for the first time, I really felt what home is," Elena told Fox. "I said, ‘I want to build a house like that in Ukraine.’"

The outside of Olga's coffee shop after the bombing

The outside of Olga's coffee shop after the bombing (Used with permission)

The outside of Olga's coffee shop after the bombing

The outside of Olga's coffee shop after the bombing (Used with permission)

Elena eventually did create that American-like home in Kharkiv. This week, she left it for good.

"We just had to pack our backpacks and pack some clothes, and we took our favorite pictures of our family," Elena said. "We just had to leave forever." 

The three women spent their first night sleeping on the floor of a church. They are now driving in the direction of Romania, but aren’t sure where their final destination will be.

Svetlana, who asked that only her first name be used, thinks that even though Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion took her away from her home, his plan has backfired.  Rather than split the country apart, she believes it has done just the opposite.

"We [were] not angry before, but they took our land.  They killed our people," Svetlana told Fox News. "Putin united our nation actually. We are very strong now."

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Stong enough, the three women believe, to eventually find that American sense of home once again.

Shevchenko has set up a GoFundme page to help Ukrainians who have lost everything since the Russian invasion.