Russia-Ukraine Crisis

New Yorker Recounts 19-Hour Journey to Escape Ukraine Into Romania

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Petro Rondiak found himself among the thousands in Ukraine fleeing to nearby countries where they might find safety from the invasion of Russia.

The man from Westchester managed a 19-hour journey to escape the country and cross the border into Romania once the violence began.

“I was I was internally devastated, that this free and democratic country could be punished like this by an autocratic regime," he said over a video call.

Rondiak manages an automotive company with 800 employees in Ukraine. When he got the warning call from his wife here in New York, he jumped into an SUV and started driving west toward the border.

The sight of explosions on the horizon became the background to his escape.

Rondiak and a colleague decided to take back roads through Ukraine, fearing an encounter with Russian forces on the main roads.

"And in some points, they're pretty bad, like nature's already taking its bites out of the side of the road, or big unintended potholes, for instance," he said of the journey.

Finally arriving at the Ukraine-Romanian border after 19 hours, Rondiak witnessed a massive crowd of people trying to flee but only the women and children could pass; men 18-60 had to stay behind to fight.

NBC New York's Rana Novini reports.

“It was this gut-wrenching process of watching, you know, men coming showing up with their wives, their daughters, their babies, kind of pushing them through this crowd across the border, kissing them turning around and going back to fight for Ukraine," he said.

Rondiak, able to pass into Romania because he is an American citizen, is safe, but thinks constantly of the colleagues, employees and friends left behind.

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