BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Millions of Ukrainians have sought refuge around the world during the war between Russia, including here in Western New York.

“This war change our whole lives forever,” said Masha Tsybulnyk, who’s from Ukraine.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Masha spent almost a week in a basement shelter in her city Kharkiv, until even that seemed unsafe.

“After the missiles shook the main government building in Kharkiv, we decided we should leave, the situation was unstable,” she said. “I crossed the border to the city in Slovakia, spent 2 days, and then I had my flight to the United States.”

She decided to leave Ukraine and head to Western New York, to be with her aunt and cousin. Her decision to leave wasn’t an easy one. Masha’s mother, father, other relatives and friends are still in Ukraine. She keeps in contact with them as much as she can, but is constantly worried about their safety.

“There is a lot of feelings that I experience now,” she said. “I’m glad that I am now in a safe place but at the same time, I feel guilty that I’m not with my friends and family, who are there.”

Masha said the support from her family and the community in Buffalo has meant a lot to her.

“I saw many places here. So each day we drive somewhere or walk somewhere so it distracted me a lot from the bad events that are happening now,” she said. “I see how Buffalo people support Ukraine too, I’m so happy to see all the buildings in the evening. it’s magical for me.”

Masha has plans to go back to Ukraine next month, but that all depends on what the the situation will be like between Russia and Ukraine by then. She says she’s hopeful, she’ll be able to return and see her family again.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.