Madison County family working to get loved one safely out of Ukraine

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — A Madison County couple is on a mission to get their loved one safely out of war-torn Ukraine.

William and Rita Andrews live in Madison County and have several adopted children. In 2014, they took in a Ukrainian teenager in hopes of adopting her. The adoption fell through, but the Andrews stayed in touch with Diana Shanovska and consider her their daughter.

The Andrews are working to get Diana and her two children out of Ukraine safely, but said it would take a network of charities.

“She and her husband have two little girls. One and a half and four. Thanks to constant contact with her, we realized very quickly that she needed a way out. [of Ukraine]”, Rita Andrews told News 19.

Diana lives in Novomyrhorod, Ukraine, about 238 km south of the capital Kiev, and is stranded without a vehicle. Her husband cannot leave the country after a government order prohibits men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving.

“It’s really scary. She shows us photos and videos in front of her window. Chaos in the streets, fire, rockets in the background as you see now, but right outside his window,” says William Andrews.

William said that while war might seem distant to many Americans, to anyone with ties to Ukraine, it is very real.

“She is real to us. She was in our house and as a girl and she is there,” he added.

On Wednesday evening, Diana let Rita know that she was hiding in a bomb shelter, praying to survive the nighttime raid.

“She is very afraid for her children and tries to protect them. When she sends us a message with her broken English “Mom, I’m scared”. My babies, I don’t want anything to happen to them. For us, it’s so hard to hear, so we want to do everything we can to get it out,” says Rita.

William and Rita work to help Diana evacuate Ukraine through a network of missionaries. They bonded with American and Bulgarian missionaries in Sophia, Bulgaria when adopting two of their daughters and the plan is to bring Diana to the border of Moldova, then to Romania and finally to Bulgaria.

About the Andrews family:

William and Rita were high school sweethearts and have been married for 33 years. The young military couple had twins at a young age, but when the twins were 13, William and Rita felt called to adopt.

“We went on a mission trip to Guatemala to help the people there. Then on the way home Rita said ‘hey we’re going to adopt a baby’, she was pretty adamant that we were going to,” William recalled.

The couple adopted their first daughter in 2003 from Guatemala and the rest is history. The Andrews family is full with two biological twins and seven adopted daughters.

In 2014, William and Rita Andrews took in a 14-year-old Ukrainian orphan with the intention of adopting her. For three months, Diana Shanovska is part of the Andrews family.

“We so desperately wanted to adopt her. She was a legal orphan in Ukraine but her grandmother had a connection to her and she had to approve,” Rita explained.

They adopted girls from Colombia, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Bulgaria.

How to help:

The Andrews say they ask for prayers of safety first for Diana and her children as they attempt to flee Ukraine. They are also asking anyone in the pipeline to donate and help Diana with transportation, food and lodging.

“They can contact us if they want to donate. We have a way to bring him money [Diana] and load her card so she can use the funds to get to safety. And once she enters Bulgaria and is safe, we want to be able to give money to her and to the missionaries helping her,” says Rita.

The Andrews ultimately want to help Diana and her children get to America safely and are asking anyone with information to start this legal process to reach out.

“In case her husband unfortunately has to be killed, she has no one. So if there is anyone who knows the legal process for refugees to get them out and get them to safety, if anyone knows how to start this process for her and the girls would be amazing,” says Rita.

You can contact Rita Andrews by email at [email protected] or by phone at (334) 799-9897.


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