How a Bay Area reporter’s tweet saved her father and grandmother trapped in Kyiv

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Finding a car was the ideal route, but Savchuk’s father has an eye and neck disability that prevents him from driving. So they had to find someone who was willing to take them.

Among those who responded to the tweet was a German journalist whom Savchuk had never met.

“He knew Wladimir Klitschko, who is a famous Ukrainian boxer, and his brother, Vitali Klitschko, who is the mayor of kyiv. And he told them about the situation, and they decided they wanted to help,” Savtchouk said.

The Klitschkos asked for help from the Territorial Defense Forces, the new Ukrainian military branch that ordinary civilians have joined to defend their homeland. Force volunteers and a logistics group informed the Burdols of their departure date, set for March 8.

“So they found a Toyota van that the dealership just lent them, really,” Savchuk said.

Savchuk’s father and grandmother, along with a family friend – and that friend’s pet parrot – got into the van and embarked on their multi-day journey across multiple borders, from Ukraine to Germany.

Zoia Burdol (center) with the Territorial Defense Forces escorts Oles Maliarevych (left) and Igor Silchenko on their journey from Kyiv, Ukraine to Germany. (Courtesy of Katia Savtchouk)

A few weeks earlier, their heavily armed escorts had been ordinary civilians, Savtchouk notes.

“Normally, you know, one of them is a movie producer and a member of the city council. But now they wear bulletproof vests. They have Kalashnikovs,” she said.

Two days later, on March 10, the Burdols arrived safely at their hotel in Heidelberg. Savchuk says her grandmother surprised everyone involved with how she handled the long journey.

“I think one of the first things she did when they got to the hotel was ask for brandy,” Savchuk said.

And the two have already kissed during their first week there.

“I know they were invited to participate in a press conference. They were featured in at least two German newspapers and also on TV shows,” she said. “I know they had a visit with the Mayor of Heidelberg and with the Chief Rabbi of Heidelberg, so they are warmly welcomed.”

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