GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCBD) – As Russian troops began shelling the world’s second-largest nuclear facility in her hometown of Zaphorizhzhia, Ukraine, Irene Makarchenko called her daughter in Goose Creek, South Carolina. She was ready to leave.

Makarchenko’s journey

Makarchenko and her neighbor set out that morning among the millions of other Ukrainian women and children dodging Russian bombs and military checkpoints as they fled.

The pair fought their way onto a train bound for the western city of Lviv over 500 miles away, which was still relatively safe at the time. The journey, which usually takes around 15 hours, took days.


Once in Lviv, Makarchenko had to find a way to get to the Polish border.

Buses taking the soon-to-be refugees to the checkpoints prioritized women with children.

Eventually, Marachenko broke out her reserve money, which she had sewn into her clothes, to pay for a private driver.

Makarchenko’s daughter, Zoya, was working behind the scenes to secure her mother a ticket from Poland to Atlanta, and eventually to the Lowcountry.

Once the two were reunited, they breathed sighs of relief, then prepared to face the new challenge of rebuilding Makarchenko’s life in a new country after leaving everything behind.

She is trying to gather the basic necessities — food, clothing, medications — but wants to get herself back on her feet doing the thing she loves: playing and teaching piano.

Click here for more of Makarchenko’s story and ways to help.