Denver-area woman on mission to save mother from Ukrainian war

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DENVER (KDVR) — When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began back in February, Alexander Reeng and his wife, Natalie, both Ukrainians living in Denver, knew her mother was in the crosshairs of war.

Natalie Reeng traveled from Denver to Eastern Europe to help her mother flee war-torn Ukraine. (Credit: Natalie Reeng)

She lives in the far eastern part of the country. In April, Natalie set out on a mission to get her mother, Nellia, away from the war.

“She was at home. … She just stayed at her apartment, she did not even try to hide somewhere in a special place,” Alexander Reeng said.

Nellia, who is disabled, was alone, with Russian forces advancing on her hometown in the far eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Back in Denver, Natalie and Alexander hatched a plan to get Nellia out of the region.

“My wife, she found some volunteers who could transport her mom from the hometown to Moldova,” Reeng said. Natalie said a temporary goodbye to her husband and their son and headed to Eastern Europe.

“She flew to Moldova April 21st,” Reeng said.

Immigration system gives ‘one-way communication’

Eventually, Natalie met her mother in neighboring Moldova and the immigration process began.

“It looked like our immigration system, we have just one-way communication,” Reeng said.

That process, Reeng said, wasn’t without its hurdles and challenges.

“She didn’t plan to stay for long there,” he said.

Yet what was expected to be a two-week trip at most turned to 11 weeks.

Natalie and her mother found refuge at the home of a friend, anywhere being safer than war-torn Ukraine.

“I’m not sure if our hometown, where my mother-in-law lived, if it will survive after Russian bombing,” Reeng said. “We’re just afraid there will be no place to come back for my mom.”

Reeng said he anticipates his wife and her mother will be able to get stateside at some point next week.

His mother-in-law is one of 180,000 Ukrainian refugees expected to be given asylum in the United States.

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