CRESCO, Pa. — "This is when we just came," Svetlana Hanover explained, as she turned through her photo album. "It's literally the first day in the United States."
Hanover left Russia for the U.S. 20 years ago, living first in New York and New Jersey before settling in Cresco about a decade ago. Her decision to leave her country came after her state governor Alexander Lebed, whom she worked for, was killed in a helicopter accident in 2002.
A picture in Hanover's album shows her crying at the site of the crash. She says the picture was used in the local paper about the governor's death. She was 18 at the time.
"Two days before the crash, he announced that he was going to run for the presidential elections of 2004," Hanover said. "Which would be the second term of Putin. I realized that I did not want to live in a country where opposition is getting kicked out of the helicopters from 65 meters up in the air."
Since then, she's been sharing information with loved ones in Russia from here in the states.
"Trying to talk to family back in Russia and friends back in Russia, it's like talking to wall if you turn on like evening news, all you see is state-run media," she said.
Hanover recalls helping one friend in Russia use a VPN, a virtual private network, so her friend could see more of what's going on in Ukraine.
"We talked about it. She cried once she realized how deceived she was by her media. I thought I got through. I was so happy and then realized that she never logged into Twitter again."
Hanover says she thinks her friend, like many of her loved ones in Russia, is avoiding the realities of the war due to "guilt by association."
"She doesn't want to know how horrific it is," she said. "She doesn't want to feel it. I say feel it."
Now a U.S. citizen, Hanover is currently working with local Ukrainians to fundraise and collect donations.
And she says she'll never give up on her loved ones back in Russia.
"Even if I show the truth to three, four, five people, it's still more than zero."
See more videos on our area's connection to the Crisis in Ukraine.