Ukrainian family flees to Columbia amidst violence

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COLUMBIA - A family of Ukrainians temporarily living in Columbia fled from eastern Ukraine, where nearly a year of fighting has killed more than 3,000 people and displaced more than a million.

They are independent journalists from Donetsk, one of the cities at the center of the fighting.

"The house of our editor-in-chief was shot at from an automatic firearm and we understood that we don't have to wait until the moment they will come get us from our home," Yaroslav Kolgushev, deputy editor of the online news source Ostrov, said.

"Many journalists have fled the city because it is very difficult and dangerous to live there," he said, "but they continue to work from a distance, getting information from sources and publishing reports online."

Kolgushev and his wife, Olena Kolgusheva, fled their home in May but continue to file stories daily. At first, they sought shelter in a retirement home in western Ukraine.

Olena Kolgusheva said, "The situation there is very difficult. It's a war, a war with all its lawlessness - barbarism is flourishing. No rule of law. It's absolute spread of gangs, the police and special forces are not working. Most Ukrainians left a month ago, the national squad, army also left."

Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

"There are a lot of pro-Russian separatists and militants, international bounty hunters," she said. "Before we had a lot of local gangsters, but then the separatism, military intervention, rocket artillery kicked in."

The couple's 27-year-old son, Roman Kolgushev, who is a recent graduate and Fulbright scholar at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, helped arrange for his parents to come to Columbia with the help of the university and other organizations. Despite being in relative safety in Missouri, their thoughts are still in Ukraine.

Olena Kolgusheva said, "We are praying everyday for our home to be safe. Nevertheless, no matter where I go, even here in the U.S., in the excellent conditions in my son's house, my heart is just at ease because my kids and husband are close, my sister and mother are OK, but every morning I wake up, I see my house."

Also traveling with the couple is nine-year-old Olga. Olena Kolgusheva says her daughter is just now starting to grasp what is happening.

"She thought this was just a short journey. But after a month, when she was getting ready to go back to school, but we were yet not allowed to go back to Donetsk in September, I noticed that her heart skipped a bit. She didn't really believe that we are not going to go back home," she said.

The Kolgushevs say they will be in Missouri until the end of the month. From here, they're not sure where they're headed next - perhaps to Kiev, Ukraine's capital, or to the western region of Lviv-which is also far from the fighting. What they do know, though, is that they want to return to a peaceful country.

While fighting in much of eastern Ukraine has been calmed by a month-old truce, it still rages unabated in some parts of Donetsk.

While a month-old truce has calmed fighting in much of eastern Ukraine, fighting still rages unabated in some parts of Donetsk.