Yuliya Makiyevskaya says the situation grows more dire by the minute, with her brother sending her messages that read: "I spend my days in fear for my loved ones"
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Yuliya Makiyevskaya
Yuliya Makiyevskaya
| Credit: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

A Ukrainian immigrant living in Kentucky is opening up about the "terror" and "fear" gripping her family sheltering in their home back in Ukraine during the Russian invasion.

Yuliya Makiyevskaya spoke to The Louisville Courier-Journal, in a story published Monday, about what life is like for her brother, his wife and their son and daughter-in-law in the Ukrainian port city of Kherson.

As Makiyevskaya, 39, explained to the paper, her 58-year-old brother Valeriy's family does nearly everything in the dark (including eating) and sleeps in shifts, going to bed fully clothed in case of a needed evacuation to the basement bomb shelter.

They are also without work, losing jobs as factories shuttered or were bombed during the fighting, she said.

Back in Louisville, Kentucky, Makiyevskaya — who moved to the U.S. when she was 14 years old — communicates with her loved ones via encrypted app, in an effort to keep the family safe and avoid their conversations being "intercepted," she told the Courier-Journal.

According to Makiyevskaya, the situation grows more dire by the minute, with her brother sending her messages that read: "I spend my days in fear for my loved ones."

"My family is in a complete state of terror," she told the paper.

While millions of fled, her brother's family has stayed put due to fears of uncertainty regarding the safety of civilian corridors, Makiyevskaya said. But staying put has also proved terrifying.

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Ukraine
| Credit: Ukrinform/Shutterstock

"Across from our home, snipers were on the roof of another residential building shooting at the street," Valeriy, Makiyevskaya's brother, told the Courier-Journal via text. "That is why we were afraid to use lights and had to eat in the dark. The city announced a curfew and blackout."

He continued: "We have not been sleeping, and I am always on watch. Whenever shooting is within earshot, I wake up [my] son, daughter-in-law and wife, so they can run to the hallway or the space between flats … or the building basement."

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the current situation, Makiyevskaya said, was the toll it's already having on her brother's health.

"The most concerning thing is that all pharmacies are closed, and my brother will run out of life-sustaining asthma and heart medications in a few weeks," she said.

Valeriy told the Courier-Journal that "we don't know how all this will end."

The family's situation is common to many now living under threat in Ukraine. Liz Tursi, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine as a child but whose sister's family still lives there, recently told PEOPLE how she had been keeping in intermittent touch with her relatives, mostly via social media messaging.

"I have no idea what tomorrow will bring," Tursi said. "I message them every couple of hours just to make sure that they're alive, and I cannot believe this is my life, or this is their life."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, as its initial invasion shifts into a grinding war for control of the country's cities.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. Millions of Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

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Russians Continue Assault On Outskirts Of Kyiv
| Credit: Andrea Filigheddu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy vowed not to bend.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.