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'I couldn't believe my eyes' | QC man reacts to bombed hometown in Ukraine, family still in country

Vitaly Modlo moved to Davenport with his family in 2013, but his wife's family is still living in Ukraine in the Poltava region.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Vitaly Modlo is keeping his eyes on the news and social media, watching as the Russian invasion of Ukraine nears the end of its second week.

The Ukraine native moved to Davenport with his wife, daughter and granddaughter in 2013.

He recalled watching the invasion develop and seeing Russian troops gathering at the Ukraine border, but he never predicted they would invade.

"For me, it was like another peaceful evening at home," Modlo said. "My wife was watching TV, and I was looking at Facebook. And then I saw this post by some Ukrainian woman in the U.S.A., 'Pray for Ukraine.' And I kind of was like, 'what is going on?'"

He describes watching it all unfold as "surreal." Areas he saw everyday when he was working in Kyiv, or during his visit last November, look completely different.

Modlo grew up in Zhytomyr, about 100 miles west of Kyiv. His hometown was bombed.

"They bombed two times," he said. "One time, the bomb hit the residential houses next to the hospital. Several people died. But another bomb hit my school where I was studying, and I woke up to this news via someone I know sent me the pictures of that school. I couldn't believe my eyes. I mean, it became personal then."

His wife's family is still living in central Ukraine in the Poltava region. Modlo said he's glad it's not near Kyiv, but he still worries. 

"But still, you know, the Russians can come and bomb any city," he said. "They have the superiority in the air right now."

Currently, his wife's family is all safe. Modlo said they have been in contact every day, and there is a bomb shelter for them to hide in.

"I told (my in-laws), 'Hey, please consider evacuating because think about your kids,' but they discussed it with family, and they decided to stay put," he said. "The way to the western border is through Kyiv, by train or by bus or by car, so it can be dangerous."

Despite all his worrying, Modlo added he's proud to be Ukrainian and of the people fighting for the country. He's also been encouraged by the support he's seen in the Quad Cities.

However, he said he would like to see more being done to protect Ukraine, beyond sanctions against Russia. Modlo is in support of a "no-fly zone" over Ukraine, which the U.S. and NATO allies currently oppose.

"We can understand that it's going to be like World War (III), but it's already there," Modlo said. "It's already underway."

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He also encouraged Quad Cities residents to reach out to lawmakers to push for more resources and protection in Ukraine.