'We had such a beautiful life': Ukrainian family finds new beginning in America after fleeing war

Like many other families fleeing the war in Ukraine, Valeria Skorovohach and her three young children traveled thousands of miles through numerous countries to come to America. At the start, the only thing on Skorovohach’s mind was packing her family’s clothes and the little cash she had saved to seek a new beginning.

“Every morning, I wake up and say, ‘No way that’s not a dream. No way.’ I want to wake up, and to have the war be over. But we woke up to this awful dream,” Skorovohach told Yahoo News.

They began the war hiding in a basement as their city, Bucha, was engulfed by Russian forces marching on nearby Kyiv. Although eventually able to escape, Skorovohach said driving away from what were once vibrant streets in Bucha was heartbreaking.

Valeria Skorovohach sits in a chair with two of her children as the third leans against the chair behind her.
Valeria Skorovohach with her three children: a 12-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 10-month-old. (Valeria Skorovohach)

“When we were finally able to leave Bucha, there were no people outside. It was like an apocalypse because you’re driving and you see no one is in the street. No one is in the shops,” said Skorovohach.

Although Skorovohach was able to escape the war, a piece of her heart is missing. Her family is still stuck in Ukraine. Skorovohach said she recently learned the news that a childhood friend was killed trying to escape the besieged city of Mariupol.

“My friend, she was pregnant in the seventh month. And they were trying to leave Mariupol, they were leaving in two cars. One of the cars made it through and then the other one was shot from the back. That was the one she was in,” said Skorovohach.

Skorovohach said she would do anything to return to her country, but for now, she seeks a new beginning in Florida, where another friend is letting them stay. She said there’s a part of her that feels guilty as she watches the devastation unfold now through a TV screen, but she hopes to be able to help other Ukrainians arriving in the U.S.

“All of us Ukrainians. We’re feeling like one big family, we are trying to help each other even in the different cities. Now we have understood that nothing matters. Only life matters,” Skorovohach added.