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Pastor and family help Ukrainian woman secure visa she is now safe and living in Northeast Ohio

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 11:32 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Ukrainian refugee once a prisoner of war is finally reunited with her American loved ones right here in Northeast Ohio. 19 News has followed 27-year-old Nastya’s journey from a war torn country all the way to Lake County. A true story of courage, survival and faith.

Painesville Pastor Doctor Trevor Littleton of the First Church of Christ on Mentor Avenue, has gone the distance to help rescue the young woman who he considers a daughter from the perils of war in Ukraine.

At one point, the pastor and his wife lost communication with 27-year-old Nastya for 43 days. But the young woman was able to run through the gunfire and bombing to find a safe way out. She had to leave nearly all of her belongings behind and was questioned by Russian troops and as you made her way to Latvia, Pastor Littleton met her to help secure her Visa to the United States as part of the United for Ukraine Program.

Nastya is now living in Painesville with the Littleton’s and their nine children, five adopted from Ukraine, including Nastya’s brother Sergei.

As the family walked from their home to a spot on Lake Erie, Nastya was able to walk safely on American soil, a true beacon of hope for the Ukrainian people, and a true survivor of Russia’s war.

When asked if she likes the Northeast Ohio and the United States so far, Nastya said “Yes. I like it here because it’s safe for me and I may spend time with family.”

As the Ukrainian refugee talked about family she smiled and looked at Pastor Littleton, who worked tirelessly, along with his wife to locate Nastya in Mariupol, determined to bring her to America.

Nastya was able to share video with 19 News of her apartment that was bombed and totally destroyed just two hours after she fled the area. There was literally nothing left, Nastya said, “It’s my home, it’s my memories.”

But sadly, the only home she has ever know is now gone, Pastor Littleton told 19 News, “She has no home to return to. The house was destroyed, but even the city is under Russian territory now.”

Nastya tries to talk to friends and loved ones from Ukraine everyday, hoping they can also find a way out, and hurt that war has destroyed what she knew and loved, “It’s Ukrainian City. It’s not Russian city. Russia come and destroyed city.”

And while Nastya hopes her journey to a safe place will inspire others, she’s embracing her new home and new life in America, and loves pizza and nature, but she admits she faces a big challenge, “First, need to learn English. I understand a lot. But I don’t speak a lot. Cause it’s a little bit problem.”

But even with a language barrier, it’s clear the language of love and the meaning of family are universal, and she realizes she’s safe here and loved.

The Littleton’s say Nastya does have some survivor’s guilt so they are working through that with her.

They are also trying to do everything to make life here peaceful for her, including making sure she understands that when she hears blaring sirens here in Northeast Ohio, it is a warning for bad weather, and fireworks are part of the Independence celebrations. Nastya says she knows the skies are safe here.

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