HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (WXYZ-TV) — We met Natalia Misiura on Mother's Day in Hamtramck.
The young mother of two-year-old Sasha seemed at ease in her Hamtramck home. But it was clear, even from speaking with her through an interpreter, that she's left a lot behind.
Natalia's journey from her hometown in Ukraine to metro Detroit was a long one; she traveled for days, first driving to the Polish border, then flying to France, then Spain, then Mexico, and finally here.
With the help of her husband's friend, she arrived in Detroit on April 26 along with her son. Natalia's husband Anatoliy, who serves in the Ukrainian military, was wounded fighting Russian troops and remains hospitalized near Kharkiv.
Speaking with 7 Action News through Sasha Tkachenko with United Support for Ukraine, Natalia said her husband injured his eye while fighting. He's undergone three surgeries.
Natalia decided to flee because of her young son; she wanted him in a safe place. Now, she's doing what she can to reunite her family.
“Of course it’s hard that his son is growing up with no father by his side. He has not seen his father for two months now, which is very hard," she said.
Natalia, who is from a small town about 20 minutes outside Mariupol, is also a veteran of Ukraine's military. She worked as a combat medic, which is how she met her husband. That skill set, Tkachenko told Action News, has proven helpful to local volunteers like himself.
Volunteers with United Support for Ukraine have spent hours gathering supplies for and constructing combat-ready medical packs to send to the front line. They've already shipped hundreds of them to Poland.
“She knows better than anyone because she’s from the field," Tkachenko said. “She packed like seven boxes yesterday for hospitals. And we’re shipping them overnight," he said.
In addition, Tkachenko and his team have been trying to ship vehicles overseas to give to the Ukrainian military. Just last week, he said someone donated a pick-up truck. But the cost of a container to ship large items like that abroad is several thousand dollars, so in the meantime they're looking for others ways they can help; collecting medical supplies, shipping more medic packs, or finding newly arrived Ukrainians and helping them settle in.
That's how Tkachenko found Natalia, through Facebook. Tkachenko is from Kyiv but now lives in metro Detroit.
Within days of hearing Natalia's story, he and a team of volunteers had delivered clothes, toys for her son, and furniture for her new place in Hamtramck.
“Whatever she needs, she’s going to get it from us," he said.
Natalia speaks with her husband daily. Her first priority, once she's able to work here in the U.S., is to try and bring her husband here for his recovery.
"Naturally I am in much pain. At present I am not able to help him with anything over there. At the same time I do hope that I am still able to help him over here, to get him moved here, maybe," she said.
We walked around her newly furnished Hamtramck home; gently used donated toys for her toddler sat neatly packed away in the corner. As Natalia slowly settles into a new routine and a new life here, she's reminded of her in-laws and friends back home in Ukraine.
“Presently the situation there looks like they have taken all away, they have looted all the shops. The shops are devastated," she said of Russian troops.
She said water and food shortages are a problem.
"Bread is sold a loaf per person as the groceries are nothing but empty," she said.
The besieged port city of Mariupol has seen some of the worst devastation of Russia's invasion.
As of Thursday, the Associated Press is reporting Ukrainian officials offered to release Russian POWs in exchange for the safe evacuation of wounded fighters trapped inside the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol.
Russia’s forces have taken control of the rest of the city.
"They deprived people of their cars. They have taken all that they only could, so the locals are now left scared, not leaving their homes altogether," Natalia said.
A special thanks to additional translation services provided by:
Julie Baraniuk, A+ Services, Inc.
Saud Alkhatib, Metro Language Services
Michigan State University
United Support for Ukraine is accepting cash donations at Selfreliance Federal Credit Union. You can also support their Amazon wish list here.
Donations may also be delivered to their warehouse at 13400 Girardin Street in Hamtramck.