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A Ukrainian American mother in Iowa is hoping her son can reunite with his wife and 1-year-old son as he remains behind the Ukraine border amid the Russia-Ukraine war.
Irena Laura Yoder of Dubuque, Iowa, told Fox News Digital she urged her son TJ — whose surname she wanted omitted for privacy reasons — to flee the city of Kyiv as the world braced for Russian troops to act under Vladimir Putin’s command.
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“I told them, ‘You need to leave the country,'” Yoder said.
“I trust the news in the U.S. and I saw what Biden was saying. I said, ‘There’s going to be a war,'” she relayed to Fox News Digital.
Yoder, a Ukraine native, said the invasion has been a “long time coming.”
“Putin hates Ukraine,” Yoder said bluntly. “He hates the people and the Ukrainian language. He wanted to completely destroy and scratch off from the earth the Ukrainian word … no country, no such thing.”
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Yoder left Ukraine with TJ in 1998 for a new life in the U.S. after escaping from an abusive relationship, she said.
“My [youngest] son Dimitri called me and said, ‘Hi, Mom.’ His voice was shaking. I said, ‘Is it morning?’ He said, ‘No.’ I knew it was a war.”
“Also, because of some political views,” Yoder added.
“It still was the Soviet Union before and still lots of political pressure and communism was around. It was very corrupt. I didn’t like that.”
Yoder, a mother of two, has a 20-year-old son currently attending college in Iowa.
Her son TJ, 35, was living in Ukraine with his wife Viktoria and their 1-year-old son, Mark, when Russia invaded in late February.
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“On the 24th, I went to bed that night. I work at the hospital,” Yoder said.
“My [youngest] son Dimitri called me and said, ‘Hi, Mom.’ His voice was shaking. I said, ‘Is it morning?’ He said, ‘No.’ Then, I knew it was a war.”
Yoder said TJ called her next.
“He’s like, ‘Mom, they started bombing. They started war,'” Yoder said, adding that TJ said he heard sirens.
“It was awful,” she added. “So scary.”
TJ and his family packed their car and left Kyiv for the Poland border, though TJ was unable to cross, since Ukrainian officials banned men ages 18 to 60 from leaving the nation.
A million refugees have fled Ukraine since the invasion, according to the United Nations.
“I pray every day to see my family again even though I have a feeling, time to time, I might not.”
Yoder said her daughter-in-law was adamant about not separating from TJ. Yet their young son Mark has cysts on his brain and severe neurological issues — which require medical attention.
TJ, who’s currently sheltering roughly 80 miles outside the border, told Fox News Digital he’s willing to fight, though there aren’t enough weapons and gear as of now.
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“It’s a deficit,” TJ said via a messaging app.
On Thursday, New York politician Bruce Blakeman announced a gun drive for legal gun owners to donate weapons to be shipped to Ukraine, where citizens are defending themselves against the Russian invaders.
Donations of unloaded rifles, shotguns, or AR-15s or other long gun weapons from legal gun owners are to be sent to the Ukrainian people.
As for food and water, TJ said his situation is “OK.”
“Lots of shelves are starting to be empty, depending [on] what region a person is in,” he said.
“I know I’m a mom, but I can’t baby him the rest of my life.”
TJ said he’s still in communication with his wife and child, who are currently in Warsaw.
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“I pray every day to see my family again, even though I have a feeling, time to time, I might not,” he said.
“I’m happy they made it out and are safe in Poland at the moment because it’s getting worse and worse … Ukraine definitely needs more help.”
“She [my wife] wants us to reunite and live as we lived before without our terror,” TJ added.
Yoder said the last time she saw her son was in September, during a trip to Ukraine. Now, she’s following his journey through war.
“When I told him I worry about him, he said, ‘Mom, if you cry I cry, you laugh I laugh, you die I die,’” Yoder said, adding that her son is ready to “go to war” and protect his family.
“I know I’m a mom, but I can’t baby him the rest of my life,” Yoder added.
Yoder launched a GoFundMe titled “Help Homeless Ukrainian Mark Get Medical Help.”
She created it for her grandson’s treatment, food and clothing — as well as for her family’s transportation to the U.S.
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Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.