'Beyond painful:' Ukrainian woman cut off from family

STORY: The last time Ukrainian-born, U.S.-based dance champion Antonina Skobina spoke to her mother in Mariupol, she heard bombings and shootings over the phone:

"And just the last conversation was that my mom said that the electricity has been cut off, heating has been cut off..."

That was March 2, nearly two months ago. She says she hasn't heard from her family ever since.

"Just not knowing what happened to my family, not knowing what is happening to my mother and what they are going through is... It's beyond painful."

Skobina says she used to speak to her mother every day.

But that all changed after the Russian military invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The strategically located Mariupol became a hotspot of the conflict -- and dead bodies can now be found all across the city.

"In Mariupol, there is no cellular connection. People cannot travel in between the neighborhoods. It's not like you can just walk to my mom's house and check if she's OK. People are scared to go out of their bomb shelters."

Skobina says her family wasn't able to evacuate the city due to her grandfather's poor health.

She says a neighbor who did manage to evacuate had to break devastating news: her grandfather had passed away in mid-March from lack of medication, and was buried in front of his house.

"At this point, I don't even have tears left, even though I still feel them coming now. I have been crying in the beginning like nonstop. And it's just a feeling of complete disbelief that this is happening. It's real physical pain. It's not that your mind is just understanding what is happening, it feels like physical pain, like somebody is just stabbing your heart with a knife."

Skobina declined to give the names of her mother and grandparents, citing security fears.

She says her only hope is that her mother and grandmother are still alive.

"Every day I wake up, and for just a few seconds I have this moment of, 'Was it just a nightmare?' Every single day. And then I just grab my phone and I understand, no it's the reality."

Russia denies targeting civilians in its invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a "special military operation" to demilitarize and denazify the country.

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