Family of Rancho Penasquitos man hides as apartment is shelled in Ukraine

Rancho Penasquitos man's family hides as their apartment is shelled in Ukraine
Posted at 4:57 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 20:38:43-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Rancho Penasquitos man is describing his family’s terror as their apartment was shelled in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

“They write, ‘I can hear sirens so loud. They’re about to start bombing. It’s horrible,’” said Michael Vartani.

For Vartani, reading the messages from his loved ones is heartbreaking.

Since the Russian invasion began, Vartani's aunt, Victoria, along with three cousins and a German shepherd, have been holed up in a second-floor apartment in downtown Kharkiv, blocks away from the central square, which was bombed one week into the conflict.

Some four days ago, Victoria emerged and walked a few blocks to the dairy plant she worked at, to ask for sick leave.

“When she got there, the building was gone. It was demolished,” said Vartani.

The next day, at home, the air sirens once again forced them into the apartment complex basement. This time, the rockets struck their building.

“They said it was extremely loud. It felt like an earthquake, because they could feel the building was shaking. It was very scary for them,” said Vartani.

After many hours, they came out and surveyed the damage. Most of the building's windows were blown out. The entry had collapsed.

“It’s winter and very cold. No power. No water. No heating systems … It makes it uninhabitable,” said Vartani.

Vartani's family got lucky. They had no car, but a neighbor offered them a ride through bombed-out roads, to a packed train station.

“So many people, it took them almost 12 hours to get to the train platform,” said Vartani.

During the wait, there were two nearby bombings. He knows during one bombing, his family members hid under a bridge.

“My aunt had to cover up her ears. It was so loud. That means it was very close,” said Vartani.

After several long days of travel, the group made it to the western border, where the women plan to cross into Romania

“They have to start from scratch. Scared and uncertain. We don’t know what the future holds for them,” said Vartani.

Vartani says his loved ones plan to go to the Czech Republic because work visas may be offered.

A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help his family with expenses.