ROSWELL, Ga. — When students and staff at Roswell High School realized their beloved custodian had family stuck in Ukraine, they banded together to help.
Visily Rusev has worked at Roswell High for 20 years.
“Anything they want me to do, I do," Rusev said. "Cleaning, trimming, cut the grass, help with the football games."
He joked he'll spend the rest of his days at the school
“I tell them as long as I’m walking, I’m going to work," he laughed. "I love to work. I love the job. Every student, they love me. They talk to me. They know I'm from Ukraine."
Rusev and his six children came to America in 1990.
"We were running from Communist Party," he explained.
One of Rusev's sisters has special needs and couldn’t leave Ukraine.
His other sister stayed behind to care for her.
When the war hit the country, the sisters fled to Odessa near the Romanian border.
Russian forces recently blocked the port, and food shipments have all but stopped.
“Every day is noise, alarms, they’re so scared," Rusev said. "It's getting worse. It’s a scary thing. They need any help. They have no food. It’s a horrible thing for them now.”
Laura Kouns, the TAG department chair, said her friend’s story moved her.
"He was just expressing to me the burden, the weight of that on him," she said. “Vasily is the kind of person that when you call on him, he shows up. He would do anything for any of us on a daily basis.”
Kouns said she was even more floored when she learned Rusev's sisters were risking their own lives to help others find safety.
"What struck me the most about his sisters' situation is that they, they felt more that they were in a position to help other people who are evacuating," she said. "My heart just went out to his family thinking that their struggle is so great right now, and yet they're still thinking about other people."
So she showed up for him, starting a GoFundMe for Rusev's sisters.
"Within an hour, we raised over $1,000," Kouns said. "He is part of a larger family here at Roswell High School and that family, knowing that he was in trouble, has come to his aid."
For Rusev, it was an immense relief.
“This is my prayer, God heard my prayer," he said. "This money is going to help a lot of things to buy food, to get some medicine, and so many supplies.”
As of Friday afternoon, the fund had just surpassed $3,000.
“For this day, they are still safe," Rusev said. “I love everyone over here and they love me, I feel this. It's good friendship. It's family.”
You can donate to the GoFundMe for Rusev's sisters here.