Local Ukrainian family reunited, worried for relatives who remain

Governor plans to welcome Ukrainian refugees to Ohio.

People in the Dayton area with families in Ukraine continue to worry about their loved ones’ safety and the deteriorating environment they are facing in the war-torn country, but strangers working together in the face of the hardships have helped one local family reunite.

Kettering resident Anastasia Nagle picked up her parents, Oleg and Larysa Gubernator, in Chicago last week after they journeyed from their hometown of Kryzhopil, Ukraine.

The couple, in their 70s, first spent hours traveling to their son’s home in Lviv, Ukraine, and then to the Polish border, where they walked almost two miles out of Ukraine. From Poland, they flew to the U.S.

“We weren’t sure if we would be able to pull this off. My parents weren’t sure if they were strong enough to make this journey, they were under a lot of stress and recently recovered from COVID,” Nagle said. “And then my husband’s cousin, who lives in Switzerland, offered his help and contacted his friends in Warsaw.”

Even though the friends didn’t know her parents, Nagle said they treated them like family.

“This is a perfect example of unity,” she said. “When people come together and help, what’s not possible is all of a sudden possible.”

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It’s almost been a month since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began and thousands have died. Reports estimate billions of dollars in property damage and millions of people displaced.

Gov. Mike DeWine held a summit last week to discuss plans to welcome Ukrainian refugees into Ohio. He said it’s too early to know how many refugees — if any — will try to find a home in Ohio, but the state government is working on a plan to process them and help them be successful.

“Let me make it very, very clear to everyone: Ohio welcomes, and will welcome, any refugees who come from Ukraine,” DeWine said. “We are a welcoming state, we’re a welcoming people. We’re a nation of immigrants. We’re a state that was built by immigrants.”

Many local residents have shown support for Ukrainians, including at a rally in Dayton. The Montgomery County Administration Building and Dayton’s Third Street Bridge have been lit up blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, in support of the country. The Greene County Courthouse was also lit up in Ukrainian colors.

Oleg and Larysa Gubernator, who planned to visit America earlier but were prevented because it was the same week the invasion started, said they were grateful to be with their daughter and her family here. They described harrowing scenes they witnessed in Ukraine, including rockets flying overhead, bomb sirens blaring, and helping their grandson with disabilities into a bomb shelter.

“For him, it is incredibly difficult to move fast and take stairs,” Nagle said of the couple’s grandson. “Of course, the elevator wasn’t working, so in the middle of the night when everybody has to get up, that was hard. Everyone was waiting for him to get moving, but everything has to be quick. If the siren goes off that means a missile was shot. That means you have to move fast.”

They said the bomb shelter was under the apartment and had about 10 people in it. Larysa Gubernator said they put chairs in the room and tried to make the situation as comfortable as possible. They said that even as news of the invasion started to spread, no one panicked and everyone started doing their part to help their neighbors.

“I want peace,” Larysa Gubernator said. “The Ukrainian nation is very strong. We will never stay on our knees. Never.”

And while they were able to leave the country, most of the Gubernators’ family remains there. Many are helping in the war effort. They said they worry about them.

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“Every day we talk with him over the phone,” Larysa Gubernator said of her son.

Combined ShapeCaption
Oleg Gubernator embraces his wife, Larysa and daughter, Anastasia Nagle, left, after arriving in the Dayton area last week. Oleg and Larysa Gubernator are from Ukraine and saw missles in the air during the Russian invansion. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Oleg Gubernator embraces his wife, Larysa and daughter, Anastasia Nagle, left, after arriving in the Dayton area last week. Oleg and Larysa Gubernator are from Ukraine and saw missles in the air during the Russian invansion. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Combined ShapeCaption
Oleg Gubernator embraces his wife, Larysa and daughter, Anastasia Nagle, left, after arriving in the Dayton area last week. Oleg and Larysa Gubernator are from Ukraine and saw missles in the air during the Russian invansion. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

“I can tell you from talking with my mom that she survives on hope, this is how they function and it’s self-preservation in a way,” Nagle said. “They hold onto hope that everyone will stay alive. And every day we talk to them and everybody’s alive, we are very thankful. We praise the Lord and pray every day.”

The family also said they are grateful to their American neighbors who have shown them support since they arrived in Kettering. Neighbors have dropped off food, clothes and other items and have made them feel at home. There are blue and yellow streamers displayed throughout the neighborhood to show solidarity with the Nagle family.

But even as they are enjoying their time with their family here, the parents plan to go back to Ukraine.

“I love Ukraine, it is my motherland, you see. I want to return,” Larysa Gubernator said.

Nagle knows she and her parents are lucky to be in their position. Her parents planned the trip here and received visas before the invasion and were able to fly to America because of unique circumstances. Nagle co-founded a nonprofit, Cincy 4 Ukraine, which is raising money for the Ukrainian defense to buy bulletproof vests, helmets and more.

More connections

Other locals with relatives in Ukraine said their family continues to suffer and is close to reaching a breaking point.

Bayram Gulaliev, who lives in Tipp City, has family in Kherson and Mykolaiv. He said they are running out of food.

“It’s very hard, very hard there. Especially in Kherson,” Gulaliev said. “A lot of bombs and a lot of shooting. They don’t have permission to get out of their home or houses. Everybody is blocked.”

He said food and gas are in short supply as deliveries to the cities have stopped, and looters have taken much of what’s left.

“(My family is) calling me, crying, and they are talking to me with their voice shaking,” Gulaliev said. “It’s very hard to explain how it feels.”

He said in Kherson, his family tried to drive their vehicle and was stopped by Russian forces who told them to return to their homes and stay there.

“I wouldn’t want anybody to end up in that situation,” he said.

Lenora Shcherbyna is married to Yurii Shcherbyna, who is from Ukraine. She has visited the country several times and the two now live in Dayton. Yurii Shcherbyna does not feel comfortable speaking to the media, but Lenora Shcherbyna agreed to share her experiences.

She said she’s been in contact with his family in Ukraine and has offered to send money to them directly. But, because of the lack of supplies, they have told her there isn’t much to buy.

“She said it’s very difficult because they don’t have a lot of food,” Lenora Shcherbyna said.

She says family members have described chaotic and dangerous scenes including a tank that was blown up on a main road. She said the people there expect it will take years to recover.

Lenora Scherbyna said another family member is staying in a basement shelter and has been there for more than a week.

“She says it’s very rough,” Lenora Shcherbyna said. “They are just worried and scared. It’s just a constant bombing. Every time the sirens go off you have to go to the basement. So it’s just a very scary time.”

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