Russia-Ukraine Crisis

North Texans Scramble to Contact Relatives as Russia Hits Kharkiv

NBCUniversal, Inc.

As the world watches, those with connections to Ukraine are desperate for a swift resolution. Here in North Texas, a woman with relatives in Kharkiv says she’s endured sleepless nights hoping for the survival of her family.

The images of destruction in Ukraine keep Nataliia Hays awake at night. Now the invasion closes in on her family, all hunkered down in Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city under heavy attack. The city consists of roughly 1.4 million people. On social media, people share videos and still images of explosions and the aftermath.

“It’s just horrible. And I tried to be ready to talk with you, but it’s just hard to talk about this,” Hays said.

A reported half a million people have fled Ukraine. Hays said that is not possible for her family. She contacts relatives whenever and however she can. Most are hiding in basements or under apartments buildings, staying alive, but the sound of war is taking a toll.

“They are emotionally sometimes,” she said. “They are just crying and screaming because they don’t know what to do, like my cousin she’s just screaming and crying.”

Hays’ family tells her there’s a message heard on the intercom throughout the city. It’s a desperate plea.

“’Russian soldiers please give your guns, give up, give up, go home. Please leave our city,’” Hays said as she described what her family is hearing.

For her part, Hays is organizing. Hundreds attended a rally in Fort Worth on Sunday that she helped spearhead.

With so much uncertainty, Hays starts each day with one single hope.

“Just to hear the voice of my relatives,” she said. “To see their face or hear their voice that they’re still alive.”

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