AUSTIN, Texas - Aleksei Nikolin attempts to hold a crying, wiggling toddler inside his cramped car as he video chats with a FOX 7 reporter. "Yes. You see that they are crying because we are tired. We are spending many hours sleeping in the car with no direction." he says.
"Each day we're living in a new place. We're running from the previous place because they're afraid that those places they are leaving the night before will be occupied by Russian troops," he explained.
The family, who is from Kyiv, first crossed into Moldova. Nikolin says it took them "15 hours just to pass two miles."
Thursday, as Nikolin spoke with FOX 7 Austin the family was preparing to spend another night stuck inside their car at a border crossing. They are attempting to travel to a friend’s apartment in Romania.
"The whole night in the car. It was dangerous because we were afraid of thieves, the robbery, because we have all our belongings, all our house in our car. That’s all we have. The car is our house."
Though worried about the belongings he packed – Nikolin is more troubled by what he was forced to leave behind. His brother’s family does not have a car.
"[My brother has] three kids (approximately) the same age as mine in Kyiv and my heart is crying because he is not able to run away from the Kyiv with his kids."
Bridges surrounding his grandfather’s city outside of Kyiv were bombed – making it nearly impossible to access. "[My grandfather] is now living without electricity and without food. He have only potatoes and water," he said.
Nikolin, his wife, Katheryna, and their three children – 7-year-old Sofia, 5-year-old Damian and 2-year-old Emilia spent at least three nights in a bomb shelter before leaving Kyiv.
"We started coughing and sneezing and that said that we will maybe die in those little shelters because it's difficult." he said.
Saturday a rocket hit a residential building near the family’s apartment. The Associated Press reports at least six people were injured in the attack. Nikolin took several photos to document the incident.
"The truth is the weapon," he said.
Still, he admits he struggles to find words to explain the war to his own children. "I'm trying not to say what's going on." he said, adding "I want for them to live in a peaceful place, a peaceful time."
Peeklogic CEO and founder and Ukrainian native Sergii Grushi told FOX 7 Austin "It’s hard to see their faces and their suffering and how worried they are."
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