Upstate family succeeds in getting grandmother out of Ukraine
It’s a heartwarming story of bravery, and a little luck.
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - “Words will never be able to describe how thankful I am, and how relieved I am, that my grandmother is safe.”
Brooke Prince says it has been weeks of endless worrying, sleepless nights, and increasing doubt that her 83-year-old grandmother, Halyna Ivashyna--who has lived in Kyiv for many years--would make it out.
“We had some previous evacuation attempts, and all of those had fallen through, so that was super disappointing for us,” she told FOX Carolina.
We found Brooke and the Prince family after a now-viral social media post went out weeks ago, where pleaded with the community for help with her grandma’s situation.
“I think someone just sent me the post. And it had already gotten a lot of traction, but I figured hey...maybe she still hasn’t found anyone who can actually help,” said Jack Connolly.
Connolly and his wife Karolina--who is from Ukraine--have been working with an international ministry called Steiger, and with local contacts they know on the ground from their time living in Ukraine, to finance local rescue operations.
They say as soon as they saw Brooke’s story, they reached out.
“We made two attempts...and obviously the second one was successful,” Karolina said of Halyna’s rescue.
Karolina says Ukraine will always be her home, but that she and many others were surprised by how suddenly the invasion happened.
The couple say rescuing Halyna was particularly tricky.
“The grandma was located in area where, on one side, the bridge was blown up, and from the other side, it was surrounded by Russian troops,” Karolina explained.
With the help of a stringer on the ground, a friend of theirs named Vitali, they say they were able to finally make contact with Halyna in the northern part of Kyiv where she lived, bring a vehicle to her, and get her out.
“When I saw the video of her in the car, with the man who evacuated her, I just bawled for hours,” Brooke said.
Vitali’s wide was the one who actually drove Halyna all the way to the Slovakian border. That’s where Brooke says her mom and older brother flew to meet her.
Their reunion was the first time they had seen each other in person in 10 years.
“I’ve been crying every day, I’ve been asking to see her pretty much every day, because honestly, it doesn’t feel real,” Brooke said.
“It was touching,” Jack added. “It made it all worth it to know that grandma was safe, and with her daughter and family she hadn’t seen for 10 years.”
Now back at Clemson after taking some time at home, Brooke says their nightmare is over, and that the weight of the world is off the shoulders of her, her family, and all their friends.
Her message is one of thanks, for all those who helped the family in the rescue--or even just prayed for them and wished them well.
She also says she holds hope in her heart for any other families who have loved ones in Ukraine right now, knowing it’s possible to get them out like her family did.
“I did not think my grandma was going to get out, and um...it was really scary...but they managed. They literally saved her life,” Brooke said.
Brooke told us the family is now trying to get Halyna a medical examination and an interview, so that they may bring her back to the states with them in the coming weeks.
The Connolly’s say that if you want to help and see your money go directly to operations on the ground (like the one that brought Halyna home), you can go to directsupportukraine.com and learn more about the incredible and selfless work they do.
Copyright 2022 WHNS. All rights reserved.