Miss Ukraine 2018 Veronika Didusenko described a chaotic journey that led to Los Angeles after she and her 7-year-old son fled their country during Vladimir Putin's invasion.
Veronika Didusenko was joined by attorney Gloria Allred Tuesday in Los Angeles to describe the journey with her young son. With Russian helicopters roaring above, they braved the horrors of war to escape their beloved city of Kyiv.
"On Feb. 24, my 7-year-old son and I were awakened by sirens and explosions,'' the 26-year-old Didusenko said at Allred's Los Angeles office. "Kyiv, a city of more than 3 million people -- which was asleep without any formal declaration of war, without any hope for its inhabitants to take shelter -- was hit with an enemy bomb.
"In between raids, along with tens of thousands of families, other families, (we) tried to get out of the city. Thousands of cars formed a traffic jam on the highway on the way out of Kyiv for many hours.''
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Didusenko said there were ``dozens of Russian helicopters'' buzzing above their heads as they made their way out of the city.
"As I was fleeing with my young son, I could see there was a real air battle above our heads,'' she said. ``On my ... journey to the border of Ukraine, there was no place where sirens would not sound, where rockets and bombs would not explode.''
She said she and her son had to pass through four countries -- Moldova, Romania, Luxembourg and Switzerland -- to reach friends. She said she already had a visa to travel to the United States, and she wanted to bring her son with her, but a request for a visa for the boy was denied.
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She said she opted to leave her son with friends in Geneva, Switzerland, while she made her trip to Los Angeles, but plans to return later this week.
Allred said she originally met Didusenko over the internet in January, and the pair had planned to hold a news conference in Los Angeles on March 8 to mark International Women's Day. She said when the Russian invasion began, she assumed Didusenko would not be making the trip, but she made ``what seemed to be impossible, possible.''
Given the continuing conflict, the pair opted to focus their remarks on International Women's Day on the plight of mothers and children trying to escape Ukraine.
"Many of these mothers and children are leaving or have left and have no idea where they will be able to live with their children and if they will be able to return to their former home, their friends, their family, their coworkers,'' Allred said. "Today I urge President Biden to immediately announce that he will give Ukrainians the opportunity to come to the United States if they so choose. He should issue them `humanitarian parole,' which would allow them after being screened to enter and stay in the United States without a visa because of this urgent humanitarian crisis.''
Didusenko added, ``Right now, millions of Ukrainian children and their mothers are trembling at every sound in the subway stations and bomb shelters. Even more heartbreaking, women are giving birth in such conditions in these shelters.''
Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine title in 2018, but she was quickly stripped of the title when pageant organizers learned she was divorced and had a child. Didusenko blasted the rules as discriminatory and launched a legal battle to challenge the decision to strip her of the title.