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'It's absolutely horrible.' Pontiac man worries about his employees trapped in Ukraine

Posted at 6:13 AM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 14:57:31-04

(WXYZ) — As the situation in Ukraine intensifies, many Ukrainian Americans across Metro Detroit are worried over the fate of family and friends as Russian forces move closer towards the capital, Kyiv.

One Pontiac entrepreneur says he currently has employees barricaded in an apartment complex along with 4 children.

His company, Company Folders, is located in Kharkiv, one of the key battlegrounds of this invasion.

"They hear shots, earlier today there was a rocket that fell very close to their building fortunately it did not go off," Vladimir Gendelman said.

Gendelman said several of his employees are trapped inside their homes.

"We have four employees in Kharkiv, which is the city I was born in, and if you can tell, this dot is the city and that is the Russian border. It's so close," he said.

7 Action News reporter Faraz Javed spoke to one of Gendelman's employees. His name is Dennis and he has taken shelter in an apartment building along with his family and colleagues.

"This night was very loud. Something close and heavy was shooting. Don’t know from where and where to, but it was pretty scary," he said. "We tore out the light bulbs from the balcony because they had dim light and they can’t switch those lights and we need the place to be dark at night."

Gendelman is determined to see all his employees make it otu safely. He's even reached out to former U.S. military members for guidance.

Their advice: get them away from strategic targets, like transportation hubs and large cities.

But as the fighting intensifies, the risk of traveling also increases, leaving Gendelman frustrated with the whole situation.

"When missiles come in, rockets come in, and as soon as they hear it they go to the bomb shelter, to bathrooms, where they think they will be safe," he said.

Gendelman says this saddens him.

"From a human, from people perspective, we never had a difference between Ukraine and Russian. It didn’t matter. Like we’re all the same. We just hung out. We ate the same food. We walk the same streets. We played the same games. And now people are being pinned against each other. It's absolutely horrible," Gendelman said.