Olya Shamrai, who spent 2021 traveling the world as Miss Ukraine 2021 and modeling along the way, found herself as one of those trying to escape the Russian invasion as the invaders made their way into Ukraine from multiple angles.
Friday, while the national media focused on the Polish border towns where tens of thousands of Ukrainians were pouring across to avoid the crossfire, Shamrai was stuck, sometimes on very poor backroads, trying to navigate her way to safety from Kyiv where she had been staying in an apartment until making her escape.
“Three days of sleep, nine hours of driving already and don’t know how many hours more,” Shamrai wrote on Instagram Story from the road out. “So scared that don’t even feel tiredness,” she added.
In the early hours of the war, Shamrai’s friends were telling her to jump on a flight out, but it was too late, the airports were inoperable and she was stuck in her apartment as the bombs started flying.
Her only option was to get in her car and flee.
While it’s unclear the exact route that Shamrai took to Romania — a typical trip from Kyiv to northern Romania is around eight hours — she was finally close enough to the border to feel some relief as the trip dragged on.
In total, it took Miss Ukraine International 25 hours to make it into Romania where the highways were clear and she was free to make her way north to Warsaw, Poland where she spent Saturday night.
NBC-4 New York talked to a man who had a similar escape route out of Ukraine as Miss Ukraine International. He explained Ukrainians were taking back roads to avoid making contact with the Russians on the main routes north towards Kyiv.
“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,” Petro Rondiak, an American citizen told the TV outlet.
As was the case on the Polish borders, men 18-60 were being turned around and told to join the fight against the Russians.
“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,” Rondiak said.