CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A Ukrainian mother and daughter who crossed into San Diego are sharing details of a secret kept from them in order to keep them safe.
On the first day, the bombs fell in Ukraine, Yevgenia Zalutska, 21, hid in a bomb shelter near Irpin. That same day, she made her way to her parent's home just south of Kyiv, where her 56-year old father Vitaly was preparing to leave, after getting a call from Ukrainian officials asking him to join the fight.
“I asked I'm not to do it, but he didn't listen to me,” said Yevgenia.
Vitaly, a civilian, owns a cargo transport business with his wife, and seven years ago, Vitaly had volunteered to transport food during another conflict. Once again, he felt duty-bound to help his country.
Within a few days, his wife Inna and Yevgenia left the town, and after several train and bus rides, they crossed into Poland.
With Poland struggling with an influx of refugees, they eventually decided to travel to the US.
“We spent all of our savings on tickets to get to Tijuana,” said Inna.
During their 24 hours in line, and after they crossed into San Diego on March 31, local volunteers offered them food, supplies, and legal advice. A Chula Vista family is now hosting them.
“We didn't expect so much support. It’s amazing. We are eternally grateful to people in San Diego,” said Inna.
This past Saturday, during a video call with Vitaly, a secret was revealed.
Vitaly had been severely injured during a mine blast almost a month prior, causing grisly injuries to his arm.
“He went against orders and went into a trench to save an injured friend. When he got out, he set off a mine,” said Inna. “We were shocked and cried. He kept it a secret, because he believed we wouldn't leave him if we knew.”
Vitaly’s friend passed away. Vitaly was just released from the hospital. His family is dreaming of the war's end.
“I will see him, and we will celebrate our victory together. I just miss him so much,” said Yevgenia.
Vitaly can't fight because of his injuries, but he's been told he can't leave the country.
His wife and daughter plan to apply for work permits, which could take up to six months.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help with the family’s expenses.