Emily Morrison said she and the rest of her family were terrified for Lewis Edwards and his partner Tanya Bogdanovska as they made their escape from the war-hit country.
Now the couple are working round the clock to help others seeking sanctuary.
“Lewis is quite emotional when we speak to him,” said Emily.
“He has lots of stories of people who have had to leave loved ones behind. He and Tanya are safe and that’s what they’re clinging onto.”
Her 33-year-old cousin, from Ripon in North Yorkshire, and Tanya, 30, had been volunteering with Point Camp - a children’s summer camp - in Ukraine for seven years and for the past year in a school in the capital city teaching English.
Their normal lives were turned upside down when they were woken in the early hours of the morning by air raid sirens.
After two days of fear and hiding from explosions on hearing how close the Russian forces were coming to their shelter, they made the difficult decision to flee the country and sought refuge in Slovakia.
There, they are working with others to do what they can to help other refugees and plan to stay as long as they are needed.
Tanya’s parents and sister’s are still in Kyiv and have not been able to leave.
“We were just so worried when the invasion started because we didn’t know if they were going to be able to get away and what was going to happen,” said Emily.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions because we were in and out of communication with him.
“Now the general consensus of the family is we’re all really proud of him.”
Emily has helped start an online fundraiser which is helping Lewis and others buy items for refugees arriving in Slovakia from Ukraine.
Lewis said; “Our friends are now working together to try and do what we can to help others.
“We want to do what we can to help, including providing essential services such as food, drink, clothing, sanitary products, nappies, sim cards - anything people may need.
“It is also a place to rest with a welcoming face and provides a distraction for worried children and parents, and a place to be in private to contact loved ones.”
More than £12,500 has been raised so far. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-for-ukrainian-shelter .