EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Alex Tienda, a popular YouTuber from Mexico was in Ukraine when the Russian invasion began, and now shares the story of his escape from the war zone.
Tienda was in the Donbas region when the explosions rang out, and he took cover with the locals.
“I heard the first explosion I was really not sure if what I heard was what I thought it was cause I had my headphones with my noise canceling. But as soon as I walked to the window it was obvious. You could see smoke, the light of the explosion’s and sometimes getting closer to where we were at the city,” Tienda said.
Tienda left Donbas to make his way to the Romanian border in hopes of leaving the country as the attacks continued. It took him three days to get near the border and then he had to walk for 5 miles and said the whole process to cross took 12 hours.
“While I was walking you would see mothers with their kids their 4-, 5-year-old kids walking this 5-mile walk and the mom with the big luggage, I would try to help as much as I could,” Tienda said.
Tienda says he was able to cross into Romania but says he saw the men turning back at the border.
“Some of them were even just taking their families out to the border and then the husbands or the sons would go back to fight,” said Tienda.
Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are currently not allowed to leave the country according to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service.
Tienda shared a story of a man who stopped him on his way to the border, begging him to stay and fight.
“He was mad to see that we were running away, begging us to fight because he just lost his brother a day before at war, so that was heartbreaking and that really gives you a perspective of what people are going through,” Tienda said.
He says at the border with Romania, there were students from other countries who had been studying in Ukraine, having a more difficult time crossing than he did.
Tienda told KTSM 9 News he went to Ukraine to film a documentary about the background of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but said he did not think the country would be attacked by Russia while he was there.
“I knew the risks but I was not sure that the war was going to start like this,” he said.
Tienda says he was originally in the capital of Kyiv and even left his belongings including a laptop as he traveled to the Donbas region and had every intention of returning, but that’s when the attacks began.
“They did invade actually and, at that point, I was just trying to get away as fast as possible,” he said.
Tienda is a travel blogger with close to 4 million followers and nearly 400 million views. He travels around the world in hopes of sharing the best travel experiences and inspiring others to travel.