As Putin’s military rolls in on Kyiv, the New York-based Ukrainian actress spent Friday morning talking on the phone with her cousin Irina, who was in the Ukrainian capital, packing her two daughters for the eight-hour drive to Poland.
Irina’s 55-year-old husband plans to land them on the eastern border and then return to Kyiv to fight to defend his homeland from Russia.
“No, I can’t live without you,” Irina shouted to her husband.
“I will not leave, I will fight for my country,” he replied.
A cousin from New York, Elena Sobina, 45, recalled the story in an interview with on Friday and said she feels helpless as family and friends suddenly find themselves in the war zones of the Russian war in Ukraine.
Yelena Sobina, a 45-year-old New Yorker, told that she feels helpless as family and friends are in the war zones of the Russian war in Ukraine.
Sobina spent Friday talking on the phone with her cousin Irina, who was in Ukraine, packing up her two daughters for the eight-hour trip to Poland.
“Sanctions will not stop this evil,” says Sobina, who lives in Upper Manhattan. “They need real help, military help.”
Ukraine is now fighting to maintain control of its capital as US intelligence warns that Russia hopes a lightning assault on the city will be the fastest way to win the war and return control of the country to Moscow. Part of this plan is the encirclement of Kyiv, its siege and the capture of one of the two surviving airfields.
Sobina is in Panama on a family vacation this week, but has spent the entire trip on the phone with panicked relatives in Ukraine, including a cousin she considers her sister.
“Yesterday she tried to be strong,” Sobina said. She’s not strong anymore. She said she couldn’t stop shaking.
She said that Irina started her day by collecting money for the evacuation, but the banks were closed. They wanted to fly out of Ukraine, but it was impossible.
“They were trying to get to the airport, but she said that they had tanks and rockets in the city with threats to shoot down planes,” she said. “The entire airport is offline.”
The road was their only way out. They went to a friend’s house to get a tire fixed before heading to the border.
“Driving is really difficult because all the roads are clogged with cars and it’s hard to get gas,” Sobina explained.
The Ukrainian president ordered military mobilization and banned the departure of men between the ages of 18 and 60, but Sobina said her ex-military husband planned to return anyway.
She is proud of him.
“Good people, they won’t leave,” Sobina said. “They are ready to fight.”
People wait in traffic as they leave Kharkiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Firefighters put out a fire at a residential building hit by a rocket on Friday in Kyiv, Ukraine
A traffic jam in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday as residents leave the capital.
Sobina also spoke to her 80-year-old aunt, who lives in Chernihiv on the northern border, who is also under attack.
“She says she hears gunfire and that her building and windows are shaking,” recalls Sobina. “Everyone is told to go to the basement, but she doesn’t move well.”
Just last month, Sobina visited Chernigov, where she celebrated the New Year with her aunt and other relatives.
Earlier this month, she planned to return to her apartment outside of Kyiv, but canceled the trip due to a looming threat she never thought would materialize. She also postponed a trip to Chernobyl, where she grew up, until May.
Russian forces seized the city’s nuclear power plant.
“When I heard about Chernobyl, it hurt me the most,” Sobina said with tears in her eyes. “I remained strong, but when I heard that they had taken over my land.”
She paused to collect herself.
“If hate ever enters my heart, I try to get rid of it because hating people is the worst thing,” she told . “But right now I’m feeling so crazy about Russia.”
She said she refuses to even talk to acquaintances who support Russia and its actions, and criticized a friend who called the war “only Ukraine and Russia.”
“Putin is not a person who has a brain,” Sobina said. She criticized President Biden’s leadership in the crisis, comparing it to last year’s evacuation of US troops from Afghanistan.
“I said that this is not only Ukraine and Russia, how can you not understand this?” Sobina objected. “The whole world is involved in this. We’re talking about crazy. We don’t know what he’s going to do. Do you know how much uranium is buried in Chernobyl? This is enough to destroy the entire planet.
“I want people to understand the danger and hopefully fight for this person,” she continued.
According to her, the sanctions will not stop the aggression.
“Putin is not a person who has a brain,” Sobina said. “He doesn’t care about all these sanctions. All he wants is to take. He considers himself Napoleon. He needs to be stopped.
She criticized President Biden’s leadership in the crisis, comparing it to last year’s evacuation of US troops from Afghanistan.
“My opinion, and I am no longer afraid to express it, is that Biden is a very weak person,” she said. “He seems to be afraid to fight. I feel like Trump has been more aggressive on all kinds of evil and Biden is weak. Putin is using a president who won’t fight for it.”