PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland woman flew thousands of miles to Europe to help her grandmother evacuate war-torn Ukraine and come to the United States.
Alena Hansen said her grandmother Lydia Asmont, 85, was living in Kyiv when the Russian invasion started last February. She said she'd been checking in to make sure her grandmother was still alive.
"I was hearing things like, 'I'm wearing my boots because I'm not going to be able to run to the bomb shelter if a rocket flies into the house. If things catch on fire, I want to try to get away because that seems like a hard way to die and it would be very painful,'" Hansen recalled from conversations with Asmont.
In April, Hansen caught a flight to Warsaw, Poland, leaving behind her husband and two young daughters. Her goal was to bring her Ukrainian grandmother to the U.S. where she'd be safe.
She went to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw and began to run into obstacles. Her grandmother didn't have a passport and was missing other key documents for traveling out of the country.
"At times I felt like I was scaling a vertical wall," Hansen said.
Meanwhile, Asmont was getting out of Kyiv. It took her a couple car rides to make it to Lviv in the northwestern part of Ukraine. From there, she caught a bus and rode 14 hours to Warsaw. Hansen met her grandmother when she arrived.
"I just saw her light up. I felt this sense of calm," Hansen said.
Although her grandmother was out of Ukraine, Hansen said it took several weeks of working through red tape before they were able to get a flight back to the States.
Finally, they flew into Seattle where they met their family. They got back in time to celebrate Mother's Day together.
"It was amazing seeing the relief on my dad's face," Hansen said.
To her family, Hansen is a hero. But she said she considers her grandmother and the people of Ukraine to be the real heroes.
"The way they're putting up a fight, protecting themselves, their country, their land. Those are the heroes," Hansen said. "I'm just glad I was able to get my grandmother to a safe place, not in a bomb shelter or being worried that she was going to catch on fire."