Woman who recently returned to Ukraine from Detroit describes waking up to bombings, racing to son

‘I would like people to know that we are in danger.’

Natalia Gusak spoke with Local 4 about the scene in Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. (WDIV)

DETROITWDIV-TV is reporting a woman who spent a year in Detroit and recently returned to Ukraine spoke with reporters to describe waking up to bombings and racing to the hospital to get her son, who is battling COVID.

Natalia Gusak was in Detroit for a year-long scholarship at Wayne State. She just returned home to Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On Wednesday night (Feb. 23), Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine.

In a televised address, Putin claimed the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine. He said Russia doesn’t have a goal to occupy Ukraine and that the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime.”

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Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russia, charging that Putin “chose this war” and that his country will bear the consequences.

Biden said U.S. and NATO troops will not become involved in the war in Ukraine, but the sanctions will limit Russia’s ability to be part of the global economy.

Personal accounts

Gusak said she was in a deep sleep Thursday morning in Kyiv when a series of bombings became her alarm clock.

She raced to a hospital to get her son, who is battling COVID. She sought shelter there.

Gusak was still shocked, saying she heard one explosion and then two others.

“It was the first explosion I heard -- it was around 4:30 a.m. and it was three and then the fourth one was later,” Gusak said.

Just three weeks after being at Wayne State University as a Fulbright Scholar, she’s trapped and won’t leave her son, who is battling for his life.

“I would like people to know that we are in danger,” Gusak said. “All of Europe is in danger, and they do not react as we are expecting, because this is only small sanctions. They will never stop.”

Julia Didenko was in Detroit not long ago to document the rise of a fallen city in a film. She said she was showing communities in Ukraine how to rebuild and revitalize.

Now, she wants to know where the rest of the world is. She said she had to scurry from a cave Thursday and try to coordinate with her husband to find shelter.

Didenko was heading to a nearby train station, but she was diverted when she learned the Russian army would likely try to choke off city centers by targeting transportation hubs.

“She’s running into a shelter right now, right away, because there is a signal that our train stations will be bombed any second, any minute,” said Dr. Olena Danylyuk, of Wayne State University, translating for Didenko.

About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's married and the stepmother of three beautiful and brilliant daughters. Her personal philosophy in life, love and community is, "Do as much as you can possibly do, not as little as you can possibly get away with".

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.