BR native and his family fighting to get to U.S. after fleeing Ukraine
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - More than one million people have now fled Ukraine since Russian forces invaded a week ago.
Among those refugees fighting to get out to safety is a man from Baton Rouge.
“Just tired. It’s getting harder and harder to process information. Not easier,” said Jeffrey White, Jr.
White was born and raised in Baton Rouge, but he moved to Ukraine in 2019 where he met his wife Katya.
Jeff is an English professor and had plans to continue his life with his family in Ukraine, but then the first bomb dropped.
“Our home that we’ve been building is a little north of Kyiv. At 5:30 in the morning on the 24th, we woke up because our house was shaking,” said White. “I thought, maybe a gas station exploded? Surely that’s not a bomb right now.”
But it was, and that’s when they decided to pack up everything and leave.
To make things even more complicated, the couple just had a baby. Jeffrey White, III was only two weeks old at the time.
“We said, nope, this is different than what the Ukrainian’s expected. We’re out,” said White.
The couple set their eyes on Poland and drove for days.
They made steady progress but eventually had to dump their car and walk for miles to reach the border after traffic got stalled.
White says his wife walked five miles by herself as she carried their newborn.
“Every time it seems like we’ve climbed a mountain, it turns out there’s some other mountain to climb,” said White.
At the border, the women and children were split from the men, and that’s when it really got tough.
“I stood in that line for 22 hours. Everybody did. It’s snowing, it’s raining, it’s below zero,” said White. “Somebody died in the line I was in. They just collapsed from exhaustion. These people have been traveling for days.”
All three made it and are now resting safely in Poland.
However, the family remains in limbo as they await visas so they can make it to Baton Rouge.
Jeff’s dad, Jeffrey White, Sr., still can’t believe it.
“It’s just really hard to get your head around it. Really hard to go, this is real. This is happening. He’s not making this up,” he said.
He said there were times he thought he’d never get a chance to hug his son again.
“It’s complete chaos. Yeah, I thought he might not make it,” White said.
As his son stood all those hours in the cold, the only advice he could give him was to never lose hope.
“He knew it wasn’t close to being over. He knew he had hours and hours left to go. I just kept saying hold on. You have to hold on,” White said.
The family was told it could take weeks or even months before they can get on a plane and leave.
All they can do now is pray.
“Our hands are absolutely tied, but we have to realize God’s hands are not tied. God can move. We can’t, but he can,” White said.
But when they do make it home, one can only imagine what that homecoming will feel like.
“Oh yeah, probably a lot of tears. Just relief and joy,” he said.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help this family. If you would like to donate, click here.
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