Local Ukrainian community react to the First Lady's Mother's Day visit to war-torn country

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Mother's Day people outside Raleigh state capitol grounds held a rally in support of Ukraine. Among the crowd gathered was 13-year-old Fiona Dirilgen from Kyiv.

She told ABC 11 about how teachers at her school warned her just before winter break of Russia's plan to invade the country.

Dirilgen shrugged it off at first and was devastated when the threat became real.

"I had three days to pack my stuff up and go," Dirilgen said. "I brought a suitcase and a backpack and that's it. I know so many other people at my school have gone through more severe things. Most of my friends are out. But my friend's friends have died and been shot. It's like you come here and you feel so distant from the people there. It was really intense. And then going in the airport and not knowing if you're going to come back. It's just so, so scary."

Today, First Lady Jill Biden met with Ukraine's first lady at a shelter housing women migrants with their children on the western side of the country.

The high-profile exchange happening as a Russian bomb flattened a shelter on the eastern side, where dozens are now feared dead.

Dirilgen and members of the Ukrainian community say Biden's visit sends a strong message to Putin.

"It's an amazing feeling. Basically, kind of reassuring that we win. Because no one can win alone. You always have to have support," Maryna Kapustina co-president of Ukrainian Association of NC said. "To go to sleep and don't know if your child will be alive tomorrow. That's a horrible thing. As a mother, as grandmother, I wish all Ukrainian mothers meet their children alive and get together after our victory."

The group wants the community to support charities helping Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Association of NC has a Facebook page and often hosts events. They have several events scheduled this summer at Falls Lake.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.