FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and for refugees, the war is still at the forefront of their minds.

Marichka Budzei is from Kyiv and now lives in Fort Smith. She was there when Russia invaded and her whole family is still there.

“To think they hear bombs and that’s something can happen to my family and that’s the thought, to be honest with you, and I wake up with this thought every day,” Budzei said.

On February 24, 2022, Budzei’s life was changed, as war hit her front door.

“We stayed in my father’s garage. We had a basement, and we were hiding there a couple days,” Budzei said.

Budzei and her family bunkered down at the beginning of the invasion, but she was ready to help. So, she traveled to Poland.

“I saw a picture that I never forget, like, it’s been a train and millions of people have been trying to get on the train it was crazy,” Budzei said.

Budzei stood in line for hours to be able to cross the border into Poland.

“It’s been insane, those 17 hours in the line I will never forget, there were women with newborn babies. Some of them were sick because of the incredibly cold temperatures,” Budzei said.

When Budzei made it out of Ukraine, she jumped into action to volunteer. She became an interpreter for some American volunteers, including Caleb Hogan from Fort Smith.

“We were working a lot because it was an endless situation of people coming in, like, definitely the most I worked in my life,” Hogan said.

Together, the pair helped Ukrainians find a place to stay and determine what came next for them.

“The main goal was to try and get them a permanent situation until the war ended or if they wanted to immigrate with their life somewhere else possibly even, but I would say 80-90% of the people I met wanted to return to Ukraine,” Hogan said.

After months of volunteering, Budzei was able to get a visa and travel to the United States with Hogan, but her heart remains with her home.

“When it comes to your home, there’s nothing better than your home and when it comes to war you just understand it, you realize it,” Budzei said.

Budzei said she doesn’t know when she’s going to be able to go back to Ukraine and see her parents, but she said she’s taking it day by day.

“I will come back, hug my parents and that will probably be the happiest day of my life,” Budzei said.