Pregnant San Antonio woman is fleeing Russian invasion of Ukraine

As San Antonio watches the shelling of Ukraine at the hands of Russia more than 6,000 miles away, a woman from the Alamo City and her husband are fleeing their home amid the invasion in time to safely deliver their baby girl. Ellissa and Andrii Petrenko decided to leave their home near Kyiv in the early morning hours of Thursday, February 24, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a speech, declaring a “special military operation” in the sovereign nation. 

According to a close family friend, Ellissa, 29, is set to give birth to the couple’s first child at any moment. She’s been traveling with friends for hours, stuck in the traffic jams that have been shown in photos across social media. Her goal is to cross into Poland, where she can hopefully fly back to the U.S. or find a place to deliver her child away from the dangers of the new war. Her husband, who waited for his mother to flee, is following close behind her. 

Arlie Francis, a San Antonio man who says 34-year-old Andrii is “like a son” to him, spoke to MySA on behalf of the couple and their families. He said the pair met about two years ago while Andrii was in San Antonio for a conference. The couple clicked and embarked on a long-distance relationship for a year before getting married in January 2021. Ellissa moved permanently to Ukraine the following month. Andrii built a small home for them about 20 minutes outside of Kyiv’s center. 

They made the split-second decision to leave the new lives they were building in Andrii’s country early Thursday morning. Francis says he was able to chat with the couple for about 30 minutes on the eve of the invasion that they didn’t truly believe would happen. 

Ellissa and Andrii Petrenko are fleeing their home near Kyiv. Ellissa Petrenko, 29, is from San Antonio and is days away from giving birth to the couple’s first child. 

Courtesy, Arlie Francis

“This is how fast things can change, we spoke with them for about 30 minutes yesterday and they did not believe at that point that Russia was going to invade,” Francis says. “Everything changed, Andrii actually went to bed last night hearing planes overhead and bombs exploding not far from them and it was with that that they began to make moves for Ellissa to get to the western part of the country and across the border.”

Francis says Andrii is also trying to get the rest of his family to safety. He did not travel with Ellissa because he was waiting on his mother’s arrival from his hometown of Shostka, about 4 hours from Kyiv. Andrii’s father chose to stay behind. Ellissa is traveling with close friends Sergei and Alina Lesnick. 

“They’re very much aware of planes overhead, falling bombs, a clamp down on the banking system, and a very, very frenetic, hyper-frightened atmosphere where everybody is trying to get out of the country as fast as they can,” Francis adds. 

Ellissa and Andrii Petrenko are fleeing their home near Kyiv. Ellissa Petrenko, 29, is from San Antonio and is days away from giving birth to the couple's first child. 

Ellissa and Andrii Petrenko are fleeing their home near Kyiv. Ellissa Petrenko, 29, is from San Antonio and is days away from giving birth to the couple’s first child. 

Courtesy, Arlie Francis

Francis says trying to stay in contact with the couple while being faced with a barrage of images showing scenes of what they are enduring on the ground is “gut-wrenching.” 

“These are people that are walking away from their lives right now,” he adds. 

Ellissa’s family launched a GoFundMe on Thursday where those who are interested in donating to the Petrenkos’ travel and medical expenses can give.

Ellissa and Andrii Petrenko. 

Ellissa and Andrii Petrenko. 

Courtesy, Arlie Francis

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