Oakland University student escapes Ukraine with baby as Russia attacks, returns to Metro Detroit

Taras Oleksys helped Khrystyna Shchubelka, her husband and their 6-month-old son escape Ukraine.
Oakland student returns to Metro Detroit
Khrystyna Shchubelka, her husband Arun and their six-month-old son Nicolas, with OU biology professor Taras Oleksyk. Photo credit Ryan Marshall / WWJ

ROMULUS, Mich. (WWJ) – An Oakland University student from Ukraine is back in the U.S. after fleeing the country in the midst of the full-scale Russian invasion.

Khrystyna Shchubelka, her husband Arun and their 6-month-old son Nicolas fled the country over the weekend as Russian forces assaulted multiple cities.

The family first headed to Prague, Czech Republic, and then Paris, France. Their flight landed at Detroit Metro Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Shchubelka had been doing research in her home country when Russia launched the invasion last week, and she was overcome with fear and anger. Within 24 hours, they had to decide to leave the country.

She had to leave the rest of her family behind, as they fight to protect Ukraine, she told WWJ’s Ryan Marshall at DTW. Her parents live in the westernmost part of Ukraine, where it's still safe from attacks, though many refugees have fled to the area, making for an overcrowded situation.

If it hadn't been for their young son, they wouldn't have been able to get out of the country, she said.

“My parents refuse to leave under any costs," she said, noting her father said he'll be standing at his house until the end, if they come.

"He said ‘you need to save this baby, you need to go and if we all die, you need to spread the word to the world about us.’”

Shchubelka is thankful to be back in Metro Detroit, but worried for her family. She wants the world to know what’s happening in her homeland.

“Show the real story, show to the world that children are dying, all (of them) are dying. This is a crime against humanity – nothing will justify it,” she said.

Shchubelka’s biology professor at Oakland, Taras Oleksyk, met the family at the airport on Tuesday.

Oleksyk, also a Ukrainian national, has been trying to help other students studying abroad – as well as his own family – flee from the violence.

He did take some comfort, though, in helping Shchubelka and her family leave the country safely, he told WWJ.

Since the fighting began last week, he’s felt like he’s in “a bad dream,” he said.

“My shock was when the war started. We were hoping until the last moment that this madness was not gonna happen and somehow cool minds would prevail. But apparently there is a madman at the helm in Moscow and this has started. I still can’t believe,” he said.

Live On-Air
Ask Your Smart Speaker to Play W W J Newsradio 9 50
WWJ Newsradio 950
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

Shchubelka said Oleksyk has been supportive of her since she first became his student.

She called on Americans, especially those in the celebrity spotlight and those who care about the environment to shine a light on what's happening in Ukraine, noting Russian forces have blown up oil plants and taken the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

"My heart, as a scientist, is just broken," she said.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Ryan Marshall / WWJ