SAN DIEGO — Ukrainians in San Diego are celebrating their Independence Day by reminding the world of their fight for freedom three decades ago and currently against Russia.

“We are not afraid that we are real fighters, fighters for our freedom,” said Olena Voronova, a Ukrainian refugee.

Ukraine celebrates 31 years of Independence from the Soviet Union, but they are still fighting to defend their freedom.

Voronova has been in San Diego for two months. She lived and worked in Kyiv, Ukraine for 17 years and is originally from Odessa.

“My own story was lucky,” Voronova explained.

When the war broke out on Feb. 24, Voronova stayed in a basement in Kyiv for two days. She then got a call from family to go be with them in Odessa, which she stayed for another ten days. She then left for Poland, then Germany, spending days traveling on a train.

“It was horrible, it was like a sad action movie,” Voronova said of her travels out of Ukraine. “I couldn’t believe. Even when I was in Odessa, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it must be stopped, how? 21st century, we want to occupy to Mars and we have war in the middle of Europe. But it is a sad reality.”

Voronova said that Independence Day in Ukraine is joyful, with celebrations, fireworks, military parades. But this year, she said Ukranians are reminded to stay even more united as Russia’s unprovoked invasion marks six months.

“Ukrainians show (the world) how strong we are,” Voronova said.

The House of Ukraine at Balboa Park honors the country’s independence as a free nation with rights they fought for to be themselves.

As people celebrate over in Ukraine, Voronova said they are still keeping an eye on Russia.

“They just ask to be just calm and pay attention. If you hear an airstrike, just go to the basement, stay home,” Voronova said.