Watch Now: ‘She Needed a Place to Be’ – Ukrainian Student’s Mother Arrives in Lincoln After Month-Long Trip | Local
United Airlines Flight 3988 lands ahead of schedule, landing in Lincoln 23 minutes earlier than scheduled.
Just outside the security checkpoint, Yuliia Iziumova fidgets nervously as the first passengers exit the terminal on Wednesday.
Tossing her waist-length black hair over her shoulder and wiping away her tears, Iziumova holds up a homemade placard, a colorful white billboard with blue and yellow ribbon wrapped from edge to edge.
In the corners are paper flowers, also blue and yellow and trimmed with green leaves, glued to the sign, bordering the message written in cursive letters: “Welcome”.
“They are so slow,” Iziumova thought aloud to herself. “I don’t even know what they’re wearing.”
A dozen more passengers pass, some on their way to baggage claim downstairs, and others out of the silent airport on the still quieter spring night.
Soon, a woman with the same long black hair and black eyes, looking more like Iziumova, appears from around the corner.
People also read…
This is Yuliia’s mother, Oksana.
The two look at each other with a combination of relief and disbelief. Yuliia’s smile brings more tears to her eyes as Oksana looks her daughter up and down, covering her mouth as emotions overwhelm her.
They move in for a hug, the first they’ve shared in over three years, while speaking Ukrainian.
Then Oksana retreats and studies the sign that Yuliia is still holding.
“Let me see,” she said.
“Welcome,” her daughter replies.
For Oksana Iziumova, Wednesday night’s arrival put her in Nebraska a year earlier than expected.
The last time she hugged Yuliia, the two were in their home country of Ukraine, on the shores of the Black Sea.
Oksana is committed to going to Lincoln in 2023 to see her daughter accept degrees in integrated data science and German from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
But then Russian tanks rolled into the Eastern European country in February, throwing the world of the Iziumova – and millions of others – into chaos.
As explosions sounded far from her home in Odessa and at Yuliia’s behest, Oksana packed what she could into her car and fled the country the day the invasion began, heading west. in Moldova.
She then found refuge in Germany with the help of Matthew Wegener, a man from Lincoln whose family took in Yuliia as an exchange student in high school, and as part of a plan concocted by her family, her friends and acquaintances on two continents.
‘He just went’ – Lincoln man rushes to border and works to bring Ukrainian home
‘She’s part of our family’ – Lincoln’s connections help mother of Ukrainian student find safety
Yet for Yuliia, the refuge where her mother had taken up residence in Neu-Ulm, Germany, on the banks of the Danube, was not far enough away from the bloody conflict that still raged in Ukraine.
“I was happy she was safe, but I think I want her here,” Yuliia said ahead of Oksana’s arrival in Lincoln on Wednesday. “That was our goal from the start.”
The Iziumovas had heard of other Ukrainians who had fled the country to return home, tired of living in a country that was not their own, or wanting to assess what was left of their lives after the Russian incursion.
Yuliia said the prospect of her mother returning to an uncertain situation in Ukraine, where intense fighting is still unfolding, was troubling.
“In Germany, I have no control over what she does and doesn’t do,” she said.
Bringing her mother to the United States, however, was not easy.
Wegener, who flew to Europe in early March, where he met Oksana in Hungary before escorting her to Germany, said programs to help people fleeing dangerous situations get to the United States were inundated with requests, mostly from Ukrainians.
The two weeks Wegener had planned to stay in Europe quickly turned into three weeks. Then a month. Then two months.
“I moved my flight eight times,” he said. “There was always a bit of hope that something was going to happen next week, and then it didn’t happen.
“So it didn’t, so it didn’t,” he added.
As Wegener and the host team who had hosted the couple in Germany considered emigrating to the United States on humanitarian parole, contacting the office of Senator Deb Fischer to request verification of the status at one point, Lincoln colleagues pointed to a new program — Uniting for Ukraine — that prioritized cases like Oksana’s.
The candidacy was submitted on April 28, three days after the entry into force of the Union for Ukraine.
By May 7, everything was finalized, Wegener said.
“Communication was still a bit difficult. We were looking for travel documents to send to each other,” he explained. “The (May 13) is when we realized they were sitting in our inbox.”
Back in Lincoln at the end of the Nebraska Wesleyan Finals week, Yuliia was talking on the phone with her boyfriend, Logan Tackett, when a new email popped up.
‘It was the hardest night of my life’ – Ukrainian student watches invasion from Wesleyan campus in Nebraska
It was two plane tickets, one for Wegener and one for his mother.
“I messaged Matthew, ‘Are you coming?’ “, did she say. “It just came out of nowhere.”
After several false starts, waiting to hear from U.S. immigration authorities and an episode of COVID-19, Wegener told Yuliia it seemed like the real thing this time.
On Tuesday, Wegener and Oksana packed their things – Oksana stuffed as much as she could into a trio of suitcases – and said goodbye to their friends in Neu-Ulm, where they had become part of the community for two months , going out to concert halls and attending a football match.
Traveling to Munich, Wegener and Oksana got a head start on the trip home Wednesday, flying directly to Chicago before the evening flight to Lincoln.
“It was a long day,” Wegener said. He laughs, reconsiders: “Two long months.
Although they don’t speak each other’s language and have traveled to countries where neither of them have been before, Wegener and Oksana learned to communicate and bonded through their shared experience and love. for Yuliia, who they both see as a girl.
“I kept telling her while I was there, ‘I’m not here for you, I’m here for Yuliia,'” Wegener joked. “She also became our daughter.”
Oksana will move into the Wegener home after meeting Wegener’s wife, Donna Gould, and daughter, Verity, for the first time on Wednesday.
She will live in the same room where Yuliia spent her years while attending Lincoln High, while the two families find out what comes next.
“She needed a place to be. She has no relatives outside Ukraine, her daughter is here, it was logical.
As she hugged her daughter again, Oksana said she hadn’t slept for several nights before their reunion, anticipating what it would be like to be with her again in a new place.
At least for a moment, the indescribable sadness brought by broadcast images of the war in Ukraine, the uncertainty about the future of the country and its people, and the stress of moving a life halfway around the world s were dissipated.
“I’m tired, but happy that we’re together.”