LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Lebanon County man is worried about his family’s safety, as his fiancé and her family are in eastern Ukraine.
Michael Verhagen grew up in Canada and the U.S., but just a few months ago, he was visiting his fiancé in Ukraine. Now he’s watching the war from his home in the Midstate, trying to help however he can.
“An hour ago, they actually had two air raid sirens,” Verhagen said.
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Verhagen’s fiancé Alyona and her 8-year-old son Tim live near the city of Kharkiv. Verhagen has been tracking the air raid sirens in the region through an app.
“Some days are good, some days are bad. Most nights are bad,” he said. “It’s horrible because you don’t know. Like if I don’t hear from her, did something happen?”
For now, Alyona and her son are staying in Ukraine.
“She still feels like she can do some good there,” Verhagen said.
The family is helping volunteer soldiers.
“Her and her son and her grandma, her son’s great-grandma, are actually making camo netting,” Verhagen said. “Tim will paint it black and then grandma sits and weaves it together and it turns into camouflage netting.”
Alyona, an OB-GYN, is still treating patients.
“Because pharmacies are running out of everything, she’ll actually venture out to different villages or different towns, and more than once, she’s come across a Russian checkpoint,” Verhagen said.
Her son Tim is taking care of orphaned animals, including goats, dogs, and cats.
“He’s named the puppy Javelin like the anti-tank missiles because the ears look like the fins on the back of the missile,” Verhagen said of one of the dogs Tim is caring for.
Verhagen said he was just in Ukraine at Christmas, and he said he was worried about the tension then.
“I started trying to prepare them,” he said. “We started putting bags together, like fire bags together of documents and started moving fresh water out to the village and extra food out to the village.”
Now, he has to watch the destruction from afar. He said it is a helpless feeling.
“Have I thought about going there as a volunteer, I absolutely have,” he said.
The worst part is the impact the war is having on Aylona’s son.
“He’s scared of the noises,” Verhagen said. “The wind was blowing really hard and how the trees will make the ‘swoosh’ noise, and he thought it was an airplane.”
Verhagen said he is doing what he can from home and keeping memories of Ukraine and his family close.
“They’re safety dolls, they’re safety angels,” Verhagen said of a doll Alyona had made for him. “Now it’s kind of like something I wish I could give back to her.”
Verhagen said he and his fiancé are still discussing whether she and her son should leave. He said he is proud of the work she is doing but hopes they can soon get to safety.
Verhagen has also set up a GoFundMe campaign for his family. You can find that fundraiser by searching for “Michael Verhagen GoFundMe.”