Lehi couple housing Ukrainian siblings while parents stay behind
LEHI, UTAH — A Lehi couple took in two of their Ukrainian friends’ children — but the siblings’ parents had to stay behind to defend the country.
“I called [their dad] and I just said, hey we gotta get your kids outta there,” said Cody Hill of Lehi.
“I just want [their mom] to know that they’re safe,” Nichole said, choking back tears. “And we’re going to take care of them and she doesn’t have to worry, and to just do whatever they have to do to stay safe.”
Andre and Masha’s parents, Vladik and Tanya, had to make the gut-wrenching decision to send their kids to safety while they stayed in Kyiv. The siblings already had a scary journey by themselves to get from Ukraine to Poland, according to the Hills, but luckily had travel visas to come to the U.S.
The Hills, who have five kids of their own, met the Pavlenko family on their Latter-Day Saint missions in the ’90s.
“Every day [Vladik] tells me our cell towers, our communications could be knocked out,” said Cody. “Every time I call him I wonder if he’s going to be on the other end.”
The Hills said it was a heartbreaking decision for the parents to send their kids off. Vladik stayed to fight in the Ukrainian army, as required. Tanya stayed to help older relatives.
“I can’t even imagine,” said Nichole. “I just want to hug her when I see her, it’s very, very tender for her I’m sure.”
Andriy and Masha reunited with their older sister, Katya, 20 goes to school in Salt Lake City.
Cody and Nichole plan to help Andriy and Masha learn English, become involved in school, and make friends.
“We’re planning on having them here as long as it takes.”
A GoFundme has been set up to help the Pavlenko family.