Ukrainian woman reunites with family in South Florida after tireless journey

'I'm just happy I'm finally together with my family,' Natalia Bozhko says
Natalia Bozhko, Ukrainian woman arrives in Miami, March
Posted at 5:09 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 18:37:02-04

MIAMI — At the international arrival area of Miami International Airport on Wednesday night, the hugs lasted several minutes.

Those hugs were for Natalia Bozhko from her husband and daughter. She had been in Ukraine for the last few months.

"I'm just happy I'm finally together with my family," she said.

She took a 12 1/2 hour flight from Istanbul to Miami to get to the U.S.

Natalia Bozhko with family after reuniting at Miami International Airport, March 23, 2022
Natalia Bozhko reunites with her family at Miami International Airport on March 23, 2022.

It was the final leg of a journey that had her traveling from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to Slovakia and then Istanbul, Turkey.

RELATED: Crisis in Ukraine: here's how you can help

"It was by car, by feet, by train, by train again, by car again, something like that," she said.

She made the trip along with her 93-year-old grandfather and a pet cat, navigating her trail and avoiding the attacks from the Russian Army.

Natalia Bozhko, traveled from Ukraine back to U.S.
Natalia Bozhko describes the long journey it took for her to be reunited with her family.

"Several times we were evacuated to the basement overnight at the railway station," she said.

Her husband, Dmytro Bozhko, said the hardest part was keeping in contact with her from their apartment in Boca Raton.

"She forgot her charger at home, so we developed a schedule, every two hours she would turn on her phone and we had a small chat," he said.

After reaching Slovakia, Natalia said she was able to place her grandfather in a care facility with fellow Ukrainians.

Exhausted and drained from emotion, she's glad she made it safely to South Florida.

"In order to survive you need to be strong," Natalia said.