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Father of 3 recounts harrowing journey from Ukraine to Chula Vista

Father of 3 recounts harrowing journey from Ukraine to Chula Vista
Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 20:27:37-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A father of three is sharing his family's story after a harrowing escape from Ukraine.

After the Russian invasion began, Sergey Iakunin, his wife, his 8-year-old son and his 3-year-old twin girls hid in the basement of a school in Kyiv.

“I was scared about my family,” said Iakunin, 30.

After ten days, they emerged and left Kyiv by train. Outside the city, while on the train, a rocket blast struck a rail station a few hundred feet away.

“Heard big explosions, then train stopped. Heard another bomb attack. The train shake.

Very, very close. But I have maybe good luck,” said Iakunin.

His son Mark was asleep when the attack happened. While his parents have shielded the children from many details, Mark knew they were escaping a war.

“I was scared that I would be killed or taken to another country, but I thought things would work out,” said Mark Iakunin.

On March 5, the family crossed into Poland. While Ukraine banned most men from leaving the country, there is an exemption for fathers of three or more children.

The family spent many weeks in several different countries. During that time, he learned about the horrors of Bucha, where bodies lined the streets of the suburb of Kyiv. Iakunin had shopping for homes there and had friends living in the area.

“They lived in basement for 10 days, without food or electricity. My heart is breaking for them,” said Iakunin.

His friends survived and made it to Kyiv. Iakunin and his wife spent all their savings on tickets and flew into Tijuana on April 11, before crossing into San Diego. They're being hosted by a Chula Vista family.

“Very surprised. Thankful for support my family,” said Iakunin.

Iakunin says he's grateful to the San Diego area, and hopes to get a permit to start working. Once a professional sailor in Ukraine, he then started working in the field of exercise science helping coach up athletic coaches and trainers.

Everyday, he says he dreams of the terrible war ending while his family begins a peaceful life in Chula Vista.

“I want to start new life where there is no war, and to sleep without worry,” said Iakunin.

An online fundraiser has been started to help the family with expenses.