Former Miss Ukraine describes her escape from Kyiv war zone to Los Angeles

Pageant winner tells how she had to leave her son, 7, in Switzerland, after fleeing her homeland

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A former Miss Ukraine winner has described the journey with her young son to escape Kyiv, after Russian troops invaded her country last month.

Veronika Didusenko, who was crowned Miss Ukraine in 2018, called on countries to do more to arm Ukrainians.

She told how said she and her son, 7, were awoken on the first day of the invasion on February 24 by the sounds of air raid sirens and explosions. They joined thousands of others on the road out of the Ukrainian capital.

“On my ... journey to the border of Ukraine, there was no place where sirens would not sound, where rockets and bombs would not explode,” she said.

Ms Didusenko told her story at the Los Angeles office of friend and women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred.

Eventually, she and her son made it to Moldova and travelled through other European countries, before reaching Geneva in Switzerland.

There Ms Didusenko said she made the “heartbreaking” decision to leave her son there and travel to the US.

Dressed in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, Ms Didusenko said she and Ms Allred decided the situation on the ground in parts of her homeland was an important story to highlight on International Women's Day on Tuesday.

“Right now, millions of Ukrainian children and their mothers are trembling at every sound in the subway stations and bomb shelters. Even more heartbreaking that women are giving birth in such conditions in these shelters,” Ms Didusenko said.

She said her request to get a visa for her son to travel to the US has been rejected.

Ms Didusenko plans to return to Geneva this weekend to reunite with him.

Ms Allred said she was hoping US officials would relax visa policies to allow more Ukrainians to travel there — which government had said it would do.

Ms Didusenko said Ukrainians are committed to defending their country but need more help from other nations.

“Ukrainians absolutely have the courage to defend their land and homes, but in order to stop the endless attack from the east and north, they are in desperate need of weapons and ammunition.

“We will fight for our freedom and yours,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Updated: March 10, 2022, 6:56 AM