(NewsNation) — Vlad Cherniavskyi was recovering from surgery at his family’s home when the Russians invaded.
He is still in Ukraine but had to flee his hometown and experienced many horrors along the way.
“I just have to do my best to let people know, like, what we’ve been experienced,” Cherniavskyi said as he recounted his and his family’s first attempt to leave the war-torn town of Hostomel.
“I got so lucky because just one day before the war started, I went to Kyiv to my doctor and they took out sort of the tube from my kidney.” he said. “So I had kidney laser surgery to take stones out. I got so lucky. They just took the tube out. And the next day in the morning the war started.”
It was early March and Russia’s invasion was ramping up.
“We had no other choice rather than go because especially at that day when we had the official green corridor from our government,” he said “It was so many explosions specifically in our area. And we wasn’t sure because, you know, people were killed when they tried to escape.”
Cherniavskyi said he knew people who attempted to flee by car and were killed.
“We wasn’t sure, like, shall we go or not?” he said. “And because it was, like, so many explosions that our windows got (blown) out from the house, we just decided to take the risk and to go.”
He said there was very little time to even say goodbye.
“I mean, it was so fast, you know? Everything, tanks, Russian troops around,” he said. “It was actually the first time when we got out from our house. And we saw how our street was destroyed. Lots of houses around our house was destroyed. Also, one house was on fire.”
Cherniavskyi did not know if he was going to survive.
“We didn’t have much time,” he said. “Like in the movies to say goodbye. And they, like, made decision to go. We just had to go as soon as we could.”
“They knocked to the door,” Cherniavskyi said about Russian soldiers coming to his home. “And they, like, told (us) we have three seconds to get out or they will open fire in to us.”
Russian soldiers then pulled Cherniavskyi from his house at gunpoint.
He recalls there being “probably around nine of them on different positions” around his yard.
Their guns were pointed at him, he said.
Russian soldiers then quickly checked his house and told him to leave immediately.
“My sister started to cry,” he said. “And she was still, like, ‘I’m not gonna leave without our cat.'”
He tried to pack some necessary things. And all the while, the soldiers were watching him.
His documents and his cats were among the few possessions Cherniavskyi took with him.
The soldiers then went to his neighbors to tell them to leave, as well.
Cherniavskyi fashioned an improvised white flag.
“Just (to) let them know that we are civilians,” he said.
Cherniavskyi and his family crossed paths with a second group of Russian soldiers.
“It was … really weird,” he said. “Because they were in such a good mood. Like, they were laughing.”
The soldiers told him, “There was like no worries, you know, a couple of days, and all of that will end.”
They were told to head in the direction of the airport.
But “the direction of the airport and it’s all in the fire and smoke,” he said. “We were, like, how can we go there? I mean, where should we go?”
Joining millions of other Ukrainians fleeing the invasion, Cherniavskyi and his family eventually made their way to a distant relative’s home in the western part of Ukraine.
Watch the full interview with Vlad Cherniavskyi in the video player at the top of the page.