Retired Chicago Fire Soccer Player Desperate to Get Family Out of Ukraine

"It’s [like] a movie. I still don’t believe it. It’s been six days, I can’t believe it," Dema Kovalenko said.

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Dema Kovalenko is spending his days watching coverage of the war in his home country of Ukraine on television.

"Nothing I can do. I just want to see my family. That's it. That's all I want," said Kovalenko.

His mother, father, grandmother, sister and niece are all camping out in a bomb shelter beneath a church in Kyiv.

"It’s [like] a movie. I still don’t believe it. It’s been six days, I can’t believe it," he said.

Kovalenko came to the US alone when he was 13 years old and lived with an American family. He played soccer at Indiana University and later for Chicago Fire FC, from 1998-2002. He also won an MLS Cup with the D.C. United and retired in 2010 with the LA Galaxy.

Now, he coaches youth at Oak Brook Soccer Club.

"That’s what I always wanted to do, play soccer," said Kovalenko.

Now, all he wants is to return to Ukraine to help his family and country.

"I want to go there, and I want to help however I can. I really do. I don’t know how. I’m not a soldier, fighter. If I was there I would. I really would," said Kovalenko.

He's doing what he can, communicating with his family and friends by phone. At times, he says he's providing information they may not be getting.

"[I] talk to them everyday. Ten, 20 times a day," he said. "I update them because we get sometimes better information from here than they do. So, I tell them what’s happening."

Kovalenko says he tried to help his family get out, but it was too late. Now, he can't get in.

"They couldn’t leave because they’re told to be inside. The bombing started. A guard said it would be safer to be inside," he said.

They're hunkering down in a bomb shelter, two stories below a church with hundreds of others, including children. There's an 8 p.m. curfew in place.

For now, he watches and waits. He's hopeful the war will end soon and he can be reunited them again.

"Just got to be positive you know. That’s it."

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