She could stay in her home where bombs were falling on neighboring houses, or she could escape to safety. Alina Lyman faced an agonizing decision.
Pregnant and alone, she packed a bag and boarded a train in her hometown of Dnipro, Ukraine. Her fiance, Dima Kvitka, 24, stayed behind and joined the army to fight Russian troops who invaded their country in February.
Read More: Escape from Ukraine: Friends in Columbus race to help pregnant woman leave Dnipro, a city under attack
The train was crowded with refugees and moved slowly. It was so packed that Alina, 26, had to leave her luggage behind.
“I’m in Poland now!!!” she reported on March 23 via Telegram, a phone app. “An extra shirt and pants – that’s all I have with me. They told me to leave my luggage at the train station. And I’m by myself. I need to figure out a few things then plan my flight to USA!”
Lyman’s friends in Columbus, where she once lived and gained U.S. citizenship, are helping her from afar with a GoFundMe effort that had raised more than $5,200 as of March 28 to help get her to Columbus and into a home. She and her friends are concerned about making sure she has medical care during her pregnancy.
In an update on the GoFundMe page he created, Lyman’s friend Eric Ponce reported on March 23 that “while she is safe, it was not an easy journey. It was a cramped train, a long ride, and at the station she had to part with her luggage.
“She doesn’t have anything, but she is now able to rest at a hostel in Chelm (just across the border from Ukraine in southeastern Poland) where a lot of other Ukrainian citizens have found themselves,” Ponce wrote. “She has been given milk and bananas and can rest while she plans her flight to the United States. This decision was not an easy one, because her mind is still focused on those she had to leave in Ukraine.”
Ponce wrote that friends in Columbus, where Lyman studied at Columbus State Community College and worked at the Easton Whole Foods store, have found a family who will house Lyman when she arrives in Columbus. “They have offered her everything she could need while she gets on her feet, including helping Jamie Longo and myself find everything she’ll need for her baby.”
Lyman left behind her friends and family, including Kvitka and her parents.
“We currently have no knowledge of Dima, and Alina’s mother and father still remain,” Ponce wrote. “This is the impossible choice she was forced to make. It hurts to know what kind of pain she is going through, and it hurts even more to know that this isn’t only happening to Alina or her family.
“So many lives have been disrupted, and the trauma that follows will leave its scars,” wrote Ponce, who worked with Lyman at Whole Foods. “With so many lives needlessly lost, I’m so grateful that Alina is out, but this ‘war’ should never have happened and it needs to end. Please, if you can, if you’re able, donate to other campaigns to support Ukraine as well, and stay informed. I realize now how lucky I am that I don’t have to fight for the right to exist in my country in my pajamas outside of my house. Thank every one of you for donating, I’ll keep you all updated on Alinas journey to the U.S.”