Chandler hairdresser recalls a frantic effort to rescue Ukrainian parents - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler hairdresser recalls a frantic effort to rescue Ukrainian parents

June 6th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler hairdresser recalls a frantic effort to rescue Ukrainian parents
Neighbors
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By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Chandler hairdresser Lyuda Hoagland pleaded with her mother, trying to convince her parents to leave Ukraine and join her in Arizona because of the Russian invasion.

Her parents didn’t want to go.

She said that according to her mother, Valentina Lisniak, her father wasn’t working and had very bad knees.

She recalled her mother telling her, “He can only [walk] very short distances, … to restaurants and our apartment is not big. So Mama didn’t want to leave him as well. So that was very hard for me.”

Hoagland’s parents lived in Kremenchuk, a city of about 218,000 in central Ukraine. It’s about a five-hour drive southeast of Kyiv.

When the Russians began bombing Kremenchuk, Hoagland’s pleas became more intense.

“They could be bombed, and they cannot run to a safe place,” said Hoagland, who lives in Gilbert. “So they were looking as their neighbors were running, but would stay in their apartment.”
She asked her parents to consider getting out and joining her in the U.S.

“No, we’re not going anywhere,” Hoagland quoted her mom as saying. “Dad is not in good condition. We had our life, and so now what happens, happens.”

Then Hoagland said the magic words that finally convinced her parents to risk leaving their native land: “Okay, you have made that decision, but how can I live with that? If something happens and I didn’t do anything, then I cannot live with that the rest of my life.”

Her parents, Valentina and Vasyl Lisniak, are now safe in Gilbert.

The journey to get there, however, tested their daughter, who met her husband, Tony Campos, when he was serving in the U.S. Navy and has been living in the United States since 2001.

Hoagland planned to meet her parents in Warsaw and had asked them to take a bus. The trip is normally about a 10-to-11 hour drive during peaceful times. With the war underway, it took 25 hours.

She flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, to Newark, New Jersey and on to Warsaw. She went to the hotel she planned to meet her parents at. She asked the front desk if anyone had checked in, they said no. She sat down at the hotel cafe and began calling everyone for information.

The bus they rode in was camouflaged and had a giant red cross on the roof, given that many Ukrainians have fled though an undetermined number of refugees have been attacked or detained.

No one had answers for Hoagland when she called. The hotel told her no one knew where her parents were. When she called the bus company, they wouldn’t tell her if they made it across or not.

Did they make it out of Ukraine? Did they get past the border checkpoint? Did they reach Warsaw? Had anyone seen them? Did anyone know where they were now?

Many times she was told they could not give her answers. During all this, her sister kept calling asking for updates.

Finally, after a couple of fruitless hours, she went up to her hotel room. Her mother greeted her after she opened the door.

“I started to cry,” Hoagland said. “She started to talk to my sister on the phone], and I was hugging and kissing my dad.”

The next problem was getting her dad’s passport updated because it had expired. The line at the consulate was very long, more than 1,800 people, she said. People who saw her father in a wheelchair came forward and offered to switch places with them, moving them up in the queue about 500 places at a time.

Finally, they were able to get the proper paperwork and returned to the U.S. It was the first time her father ever flew on an airplane.
Valentina said she does not know if they will return to Ukraine once the war is over. She said it will depend greatly on the health of her husband.

Did Hoagland know that it would be that difficult to get her parents out?

“I tried to prepare myself, it’ll be hard,” she said. “But I didn’t share that with my parents to keep them calm.”