Mother flees Ukraine with daughter and disabled son

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Liudmilya Samokhvalova holds her son Mark standing on a sunny porch in Omaha. The 10-year-old is non-verbal and has dystonia – he can’t walk. The serenity that surrounds them contrasts sharply with the world they escaped only a few months ago. “You feel every second that they can bomb your house,” said Samokhvalova, who is from Ukraine and a mother of two. Samohvalova was carrying Mark up the stairs to the bomb shelter when the sirens sounded. Her 6-year-old sister Yeva was right behind. “Sometimes I feel like screaming. It was so difficult,” Samokhvalova said. “It’s hard to lift Mark all the time. Weeks after the war began, the young mother lifted Mark again, heading for the Polish border, not underground. “I have no choice,” Samokhvalova said. “I just don’t have a choice.” They left Poltava, a town between Kyiv and Kharkiv with Samokhvalova’s aging parents. But a different danger followed them. “suffers from epilepsy,” Samokhvalova said. “And I don’t have any medicine. If anything happened, it was a big risk.” A risk she felt compelled to take. They took what they could carry, strapped Mark’s stroller to the roof of the car, and drove for five days, with Mark lying in the backseat. wondering when and if they would return home. “I can’t find words to describe how difficult it was,” said Samokhvalova’s mother, Tamara. The family dared to hope to find a new home, at least for now, in America. “I still don’t believe I’m here, it’s still a shock,” Samokhvalova said. A man from Omaha made the trip possible. “It’s an amazing step, what he did to us,” Samokhvalova said in tears. on business, his Millard household is usually empty. Now, however, it’s a haven full of toys and medicine. security,” DeFonzo said. DeFonzo met Samokhvalova online while working overseas a few years ago. They did not meet in person until the family set foot on American soil. who serves as the family’s godfather – anyone coming to the United States under the Biden administration’s “Uniting for Ukraine” program needs it. “It’s a much bigger thing than just getting them here and finding them a place to live.” -ups at the Children’s, where he got a personalized wheelchair, Mark is healthy and Yeva is happy, showing KETV NewsWatch 7 her new toys and the stuffed animal she brought from home. They hope to enroll her in school in the fall and she is already learning some English. Samokhvalova said Mark was welcomed with open arms, a welcome change from the stigma they often faced back home. “People react differently with children with disabilities,” Samokhvalova said. She even heard of people abandoning their disabled children as they fled. “How hard it will be for me to travel and how hard it will be, I will never, ever do this to my child,” Samokhvalova said. DeFonzo’s help, they can live here for two years. Samokhvalova’s mother wants to return to a victorious Ukraine. This is the first time she’s gone. Samokhvalova wants to help her country win the war but sees the future of his family to thrive here. “I think for my kids right now it’s better to stay here,” Samokhvalova said DeFonzo said he applied for a work permit Ukraine’s national flower is flourishing in the garden, as this family plants new roots and prays for peace.” You rise and you see a new day, you see the sun and I want to say to people, I want them to remember this, that they have that,” Samokhvalova said.

Liudmilya Samokhvalova holds her son Mark standing on a sunny porch in Omaha. The 10-year-old is non-verbal and has dystonia – he can’t walk. The serenity that surrounds them contrasts sharply with the world they escaped only a few months ago.

“You feel every second that they can bomb your house,” said Samokhvalova, who is from Ukraine and a mother of two.

Samohvalova was carrying Mark up the stairs to the bomb shelter when the sirens sounded. Her 6-year-old sister Yeva was right behind.

“Sometimes I feel like screaming. It was so difficult,” Samokhvalova said. “It’s hard to lift Mark all the time.”

A few weeks after the start of the war, the young mother lifted Mark again, heading for the Polish border, not underground.

“I have no choice,” Samokhvalova said. “I just don’t have a choice.”

They left Poltava, a town between Kyiv and Kharkiv with Samokhvalova’s aging parents. But a different danger followed them.

“[Mark] suffers from epilepsy,” Samokhvalova said. “And I don’t have any medication. If something happened, it was a big risk.”

A risk she felt compelled to take.

They took what they could carry, strapped Mark’s stroller to the roof of the car, and drove for five days, with Mark lying in the backseat.

“I’m just scared for not even you, for the kids,” Samokhvalova said.

They spent months in Poland wondering when and if they would return home.

“I can’t find words to describe how difficult it was,” said Samokhvalova’s mother, Tamara.

The family dared to hope to find a new home, at least for now, in America.

“I still don’t believe I’m here, it’s still a shock,” Samokhvalova said.

A man from Omaha made the trip possible.

“It’s an amazing step, what he did to us,” Samokhvalova said in tears.

While Andrew DeFonzo is away on business, his Millard home is usually empty. Today, however, it’s a haven full of toys and medicine.

“It’s worked out perfectly so they can come home, stay there, get the comfort and the sense of security that they so desperately need,” DeFonzo said.

DeFonzo met Samokhvalova online while working overseas a few years ago. They didn’t meet in person until the family set foot on American soil.

“When that happened, the stars kind of aligned,” said DeFonzo, who is the family’s godfather – anyone coming to the United States under the Biden administration’s “Uniting for Ukraine” program. needs it. “It’s much more important than just bringing them here and finding them a place to live.”

After checkups at Children’s, where he got a personalized wheelchair, Mark is healthy and Yeva is happy, showing KETV NewsWatch 7 her new toys and the stuffed animal she brought from home. They hope to enroll her in school in the fall and she is already learning some English.

Samokhvalova said Mark was welcomed with open arms, a welcome change from the stigma they often faced back home.

“People react differently on children with disabilities,” Samokhvalova said.

She even heard of people abandoning their disabled children as they fled.

“How difficult it will be for me to travel and how difficult it will be, I will never, ever do this to my child,” Samokhvalova said.

With DeFonzo’s help, they can live here for two years. Samokhvalova’s mother wants to return to a victorious Ukraine. It’s the first time she’s gone. Samokhvalova wants to help her country win the war but sees her family’s future flourishing here.

“I think for my kids right now it’s better to stay here,” Samokhvalova said.

DeFonzo said he applied for work permits.

Ukraine’s national flower blooms in the garden as this family plants new roots and prays for peace.

“You get up and you see a new day, you see the sun and I want to tell people, I want them to not forget this, to have this,” Samokhvalova said.


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