CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Pammy Morgan received a six-word text that made her so weak she dropped to the floor: “Know that I love you all.”
The message was from her son Maurice “Mo” Creek — a former NCAA basketball star at Indiana University. He had been playing professionally for the Municipal Basketball Club, which plays in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, a southern city that sits along a river.
But when the war began, he didn’t know if he could get home.
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine was closed and vacated. Mo didn’t have enough money to pay for travel out of the country.
“I said, ‘I may not get my child back, I may not see him again,'” she recalled on “The Donlon Report” Friday night. “We’re just regular people and our son was in the middle of the war. We were devastated,” she continued.
Pammy’s son is now one of the 1.2 million refugees that have fled the Ukraine since Russia’s invasion Feb. 24 and just a fraction of the 4 million that are predicted to leave in what is swiftly becoming one of the largest refugee exoduses in history.
It’s the result of what is now been over a week of shelling, cyber-attacks and air strikes as Russia continues to carry out what Putin claims is a rescue mission for Ukrainian citizens with “blood ties” to Russia.
According to the U.N. human rights office, 331 people have been confirmed killed and 675 injured since the beginning of the Russian invasion as of Friday.
But for Mo, it didn’t immediately click it was time to jump ship.
“It took a while, I’m not going to sit here and lie,” Mo answered when asked how long it took for him to realize the severity of his situation. “At first, I didn’t think of it happening but when you start to see the media blasting it and you see it happening from the Ukrainian side and the America’s side … now we’re talking about getting out.”
Except, getting out wasn’t a walk in the park. According to the pro athlete, it took nine hours to get across the border and days after that to get on U.S. soil, forcing him to take cover. He credits Erik Nordberg, a Ret. Lt. Colonel whom he met while working at a basketball clinic, with planning the logistics of his escape.
“It was scary. You get reports of shelling, power was cutting out at certain points in time. When it hit nighttime, it was very dark outside. No lights, no street lights — no nothing. Only lights you were getting was when somebody rolled past with a car,” he said to “The Donlon Report”.
“To see all that type of stuff, it was hard for me to sleep at night for me and my family. We really got through something very traumatic,” he continued.
But Mo says support got him through, recalling family, his fanbase and friends as some of the people who kept him encouraged until he finally got home. “When I saw the plane about to land and I knew where it was landing, I shed a tear. It was crazy, ” he said.
With Mo safe and back at home, his father couldn’t resist cracking a joke.
“I was elated. I was glad to see his little chicken legs coming through the door,” Mike Morgan said.
Despite the traumatic experience, Mo still has a soft spot for Ukraine in his heart. “I love Ukraine,” he said. “It’s like a second home.”