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Rescue Babushka Luba; Travis Airman evacuates mother from Ukraine to US

  • Published
  • By Nicholas Pilch
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The war in Ukraine is believed to have displaced more than 5.7 million refugees and asylum-seekers since the invasion began in late February, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. After the opposition to Ukraine turned its focus to Kyiv, an Airman from David Grant Medical Center sprang into action to ensure her mother, Luba, would be safe and as far away from the fight as possible.

“When the war broke out, I begged my mother for two weeks straight to move here,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Zlatoslava Karga, 60th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron psychiatric nurse practitioner. “I’ve been asking her to move here since I immigrated.”

Karga was raised in Kyiv and immigrated to the U.S. in 2001. She commissioned into the Air Force in 2019.

As the circumstances developed in Ukraine, Karga said she could no longer ask her mom as a want but now as a need for her to move to the U.S.

On March 8, Luba reluctantly agreed to move out of Ukraine. Karga’s husband, Rob, set up a GoFundMe to offset the funds for last-minute travel arrangements and the money was raised within two hours. Karga pointed out that some donations even came from Russian families wanting Luba to get to safety.

Karga coordinated the trip, which was not an easy task according to her. She found a volunteer driver to take Luba out of Kyiv to Ternopil – usually a six-hour drive, but because of the war-torn roads, the drive took 14 hours. From Ternopil, Luba took an overnight bus to Kraków, Poland. Rob arrived in Poland and brought Luba to America on March 13.

Luba said the cultural differences are going to take some time to get accustomed to here, but feels grateful that so many people, in some cases strangers, were loving enough to help move her here.

“I was brought to tears on the plane when a flight attendant approached me because she heard I was from Ukraine,” Luba said. “She came to me crying and hugged me and told me she was so happy I was safe.”

Luba, 67, is shy, and speaks a little English.

“I was walking through the airport, and one of my shoes untied,” Luba recalled. “This woman, who worked for the airline, walked up to me, knelt and tied my shoe for me. It was an incredible act of kindness to top off all of the kindness people did for me to move me here.”

This mother-daughter duo hasn’t seen each other since 2015, so some adjustments for their new life together are being made, but Karga is happy her mother is here for good.

She said the biggest difference since moving here is how peaceful it is. In the war-torn Ukraine, she could hear bombs going off a couple blocks from her apartment. Here, she enjoys the peace of the Northern California countryside—the sounds of horses, roosters crowing and bees buzzing, because at the edge of their property there is an apiculture. That doesn’t stop Luba from relaxing in the sun a few yards from the bee colony.

Karga and Luba said the kindness they received can only be reciprocated by showing love and compassion for everyone around them.

“It’s important for us to share our love and compassion for everyone,” Karga said.

Mother’s Day for this family is a little more special, and Rob, who also works at DGMC, has something planned for them.

“Zlata (Zlatoslava) doesn’t celebrate Mother’s Day like most people do,” he said. “She celebrates her mother every chance she gets, and I plan on honoring both of them on Mother’s Day with something special.”

Luba evacuated from Ukraine – a six-thousand-mile trip. She prays for peace in Ukraine and hopes the kindness given to her, for her daughter, is passed on.

The U.S. continues to expedite the authorization and facilitation of additional assistance to Ukraine from our Allies.

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