Only on 8: Former West Salem man living in Ukraine shares his story after Russian invasion

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The war in Ukraine is hitting close to home.

A former West Salem man and his wife fled their Ukrainian home after Russians began bombing.

For two and a half years, James Wisch says he has been having the time of his life in Ukraine.

Wisch is an English teacher there, and he says he’s always wanted to live in Ukraine.

“It looks exactly like Wisconsin or southern Minnesota, honestly,” Wisch said. “It’s rolling green hills and farming country.”

The 46-year-old married his wife last weekend.

“It’s like my best life,” Wisch said. “Up until today, I’ve been living my best life.”

But his storybook life took a turn when Russian forces invaded his city.

“I couldn’t stop it,” Wisch said. “You can’t stop it from happening. You can just do the best you can.”

Russian forces have invaded and bombed cities all over Ukraine, he said.

He heard two bombs go off when he was is in Kyiv Thursday morning.

“At least today, I was expecting the war to be 600 miles away, not 15 miles away,” Wisch said. “No large city right now is safe.”

Wisch and his wife packed what they could and fled Kyiv.

“I was just grabbing stuff and throwing it in the bag and getting out the door,” Wisch said.

And then wondering when he, like many others, would make it to safety.

“Standing at the bus stop waiting for the tiny, little bus that took two and a half hours to come pick us up to take us here, hopefully some place safe for now, I was not calm,” Wisch said. “I’ve never seen that many cars on the freeways in Ukraine ever.”

Wisch and his wife are staying in a village about four hours south of Kyiv — in a safe place, at least for now.

“When you’re in a situation like this, sometimes all you can do is laugh,” Wisch said.

The Ukrainian president has said he will provide weapons to citizens who are willing to fight.

Wisch says if he can, he will.

“I’m an American,” Wisch said. “Of course, I’m going to fight for freedom.”

Fighting back to protect what he says Ukraine stands for: peace and freedom.

Ukrainians oppose a Russian takeover, but Wisch says most Russians are not happy about the attacks either.

If there isn’t an immediate end to this war, he said he and his wife will likely move to a neighboring country.

You can watch the full interview with Wisch exclusively on the News8000+ app.

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