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South Florida woman travels thousands of miles to rescue Ukrainian family member

Andrea Vasylynych and grandmother in law.png
Posted at 6:11 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 09:48:01-04

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — There are many stories of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to other countries, including here in the United States. Some are choosing an unlikely route, up through the Mexican border.

A South Florida woman shared the process she went through to bring a family member to the U.S. that included several stops along the way.

Andrea Vasylynych said she's never traveled so much in two weeks. She set out to get her husband's 82-year-old grandmother who was hiding out in Odessa, Ukraine.

"Had one of my husband's good friends tell us, hey I have this guy that he's going to be transporting refugees across the border," she said.

The grandmother ended up in Moldova.

"Had another one of close friends who was there picking up his family and he said we are going to take care of her. We are going to drive over to Romania," recalled Vasylynych.

During that trek, Vasylynych was flying from the U.S. through Turkey to get to Romania.

"Our goal was to essentially come back to the United States into Mexico and get her over the border in Mexico,” she said. “But due to all of the COVID restrictions, we decided you know what, let's try and transfer her visa case, which she currently had in Kyiv, to Romania."

They stayed in Romania for almost two weeks. The grandmother got sick while there and they learned her visa was denied.

However, they found a solution.

"As a Ukrainian citizen, she does not require a visa to go into Colombia, which is where my family was staying,” said Vasylynych. “We did a layover in Paris. Paris to Panama. Panama to Colombia."

Once they arrived, they stayed with Vasylynych’s family.

"Once in Colombia, we were able to catch a flight to Mexico City, where we had a layover and got to Ciudad Flores."

They were allowed to go to the immigration office.

"So, she doesn't speak English, she doesn't speak Spanish, she only speaks Russian, do you have a translator? Well, how have you been communicating with her? Through Google. Alright, we are going to use you for a second."

She was able to cross the border, now making her way to Florida. Though the grandmother is far away from Ukraine, she's having nightmares about the country she left behind.

"She was able to hear the bombs going off from where she lives," said Vasylynych.