WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been an extremely emotional year for Vira Koldyk, whose family has remained in Ukraine despite the ongoing war with Russia.

Koldyk’s 78-year-old mother still lives in Ukraine, while her brother-in-law and nephew are on the front lines defending their native country.

“I just wish I could give my mom a hug,” she said.

Koldyk was born and raised in Ukraine, but moved to the United States in 2008, where she now lives with her husband and twin daughters.

“There were moments that were extremely tough,” she said. “There were moments that it slowed down.”

As the ongoing war began to fade from headlines over the last year, Koldyk continued to receive real-time updates from her family overseas.

“You have little villages that are completely wiped out,” Koldyk said. “You’ve got towns that turned into the ghost towns … you’ve even got some big cities where there’s hardly anything left.”

Watching the devastation unfold from thousands of miles away has been unimaginable for Koldyk, who said her days have been filled with praying for her loved ones’ safety.

“It’s like your heart is being stabbed,” she explained. “You’re bleeding and bleeding and you just try to persevere. It was a big lesson in perseverance for me.”

While her country remains steadfast in its fight for freedom, Koldyk believes the war is far from over.

“I think we’re closer to World War III than we were a year ago,” she said.

When it comes to the United States’ involvement, Koldyk wishes America would do more to help Ukraine.

“When our country was fighting for freedom, freedom from the British, that war lasted seven to eight years,” she said. “Who helped this country? France.”

President Joe Biden unveiled a $2 billion military aid package last week for Ukraine, along with additional sanctions on Russia.

In the meantime, Rhode Islanders are doing what they can to help. Koldyk tells 12 News she’s been sending care packages overseas, while organizations across the state have continuously held fundraisers, vigils and donation drives.

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