GREENSBORO, N.C. — Billy White stood outside the Old Guilford County Courthouse Friday morning to share the story of his stepdaughter Sofiia's harrowing journey out of Ukraine.
"The war in Ukraine is very personal to me," said White, "She sent me a video from out on her porch of air raid sirens going off, and she sent me videos of explosions in nearby towns. The war is very real. I think we take it for granted here that we go home every night and we sleep in a warm bed and complain about the food we had delivered to our house and they're dodging bombs and trying to find relatives. It’s a very serious situation."
Sofiia spent a few years in Greensboro studying at the Newcomers School and Page High School. She holds a Green Card and is a legal resident in the United States.
White said she moved back to Ukraine to live with her grandparents for some time. He asked Sofiia to leave the country leading up to the invasion.
"I'm like, 'I think you need to get out of there because Putin’s piling up weapons on the border,' and for some reason, she just didn’t believe that it was going to happen," he said.
Sofiia finally decided to leave with her grandmother. The two made it out of the war-torn country after a long uncertain journey.
"It's about 300 miles and it took 18 hours to get to the border. Overcrowded buses. They were getting some kind of intel about Russians being in there so they had to drive different routes," said White.
White said Sofiia was on the early wave of refugees leaving the country.
"There [was] just thousands and thousands of people there and she was sort of on the early side of it. There's more people there now than when we got her across so we were very fortunate," said White, "She can’t believe that we found a hotel but we did so she and grandma are at the hotel and safe but now its time to move on and let somebody else take her hotel and get the process going."
White said more needs to be done to swiftly move and relocate refugees out of Poland and to other locations to free up more space for those at border crossings and others who haven't left Ukraine yet.
"It’s a world issue now," said White, "Something needs to happen because we need to move those people further down the line to the United States and other countries. There are more refugees coming and we have to get more people out of Ukraine."
Sofiia and her grandmother have an appointment on April 19 to get her grandmother a visa.
White said the hope is then to get Sofiia and her grandmother a flight to Greensboro for a happy homecoming.
"I feel like I would have a giant building off my back. A tremendous weight and relief. Then I’m still concerned about the other people that are coming behind," he said.