Utah State volleyball player Kristy Frank was one of many Ukrainians abroad to watch in horror as Russia commenced its unprovoked invasion of her homeland.
The Kyiv native currently lives in Logan, Utah, but her family remained in the country. In a video released by the Aggies, Frank recalled seeing videos of explosions in her city on her friends' social media feeds. She cried on a phone call with her father when he said there were explosions nearby. In another call, her mother told her a Russian plane had dropped a bomb by her friend's house.
The next day, Frank's family packed up their things and headed out of the city, hoping to find a safe destination. A bus took them to a city near the Romanian border and, eventually, they crossed into the country despite passport issues with her father.
Even when they were out of the country, Frank said she didn't know what their plan was. That changed, however, when she mentioned her best friend at Utah State, Inka Mehtola, might be able to help.
Mehtola, a native of Raahe, Finland, had talked to her parents about what was happening to the Franks, and soon, help was on the way.
Utah State's video:
Mehtola's recounting of how it all came together:
"When Kris' parents called her, when it was actually happening the first time, my mom texted me before that 'They're in Ukraine right now, bombing Kyiv. At the moment, there's nothing you can really do, just be there.' I was talking with my parents and then my mom called me a couple days ago out of nowhere and she's like 'Kris' parents are trying to come here.' My mom's going to pick them up from the capital and they're going to my place for a while, and then we're going to see what's going to be the next step."
Before this, Frank said her parents and Mehtola's parents had never met, but there had been a few Facetime encounters. That ended up making the gesture even more meaningful, Frank remembered:
"My family, when they found out Inka's parents are willing to drive all the way just to come pick them up and give them a place to stay, they were so amazed and so grateful, because, first of all, it's incredibly lucky to find a friend like that, like Inka, soulmate, and then for her parents to be another best friend to my parents is so rare."
While Frank's family may be safe now, the war in Ukraine remains, and it's unclear when a resolution could come. Experts paint a dire picture of how far Russian president Vladimir Putin is willing to go to achieve a perceived victory in Ukraine, but Ukrainians by and large, including several famous athletes, have shown they're willing to fight.