As the bombs continue to fall on Ukraine, David Korpiewski’s mind turns to one place: his 10-year-old daughter in Dnipro. Unable to return her daughter to her grandparents on her own, the conflict with Russia has sent Mary’s mother on a rescue mission which Korpiewski says could have deadly consequences.
“This war is so fluid that we have no idea what’s going to happen,” Korpiewski said. Newsweek. “There is a very big risk that they won’t even survive the return trip.”
David and Iryna, Mary’s mother, debated sending Mary out of the country before the invasion, but like many Ukrainians, Iryna was skeptical of the warnings. When the war broke out, she was attending a conference in Austria. Mary therefore lived with her grandparents in Dnipro, a city in central Ukraine.
With her father’s passport expired and her mother struggling to cross the border from Poland, Mary took refuge with her grandparents about 50 miles from a nuclear power plant that came under Russian bombing.
“If they blow it up, she’ll die of radiation. It’ll cook her and her grandparents,” Korpiewski said. “It has become even more imperative that we join her.”
Russian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant sparked a fire that claimed the lives of several Ukrainians. It is a war crime to attack a nuclear plant, according to the US embassy in Ukraine, but the Russians took control of the site early Friday morning, giving them the opportunity to control the Ukrainian population by denying them power as a punishment.
The attack on the plant brought back memories of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that an explosion could have serious consequences. Although the reactors were not compromised, according to IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, he noted that the situation was “extremely tense and difficult”.
When war broke out, Korpiewski sought to book a flight to Europe to bring her daughter to safety in the United States. However, he realized his passport had just expired and when he contacted the State Department for assistance, he said he had been told he would have to wait two weeks because there were no appointments available.
I told them: “I don’t know if Ukraine will be there in two weeks,” Korpiewski said. With help from Sen. Ed Markey’s office, Korpiewski was able to secure an appointment for Friday and plans to fly to Poland on Saturday.
However, once he arrives in Poland, Korpiewski will just have to wait and hope. Train tickets were difficult to obtain and men of military age were not allowed to leave the country.
Assuming their daughter can travel to Poland, the family faces another hurdle: getting her a new passport. Not expecting war to break out with her grandparents, Mary left her American passport in Kiev at the house she shares with her mother. It is too risky for the family to return to Kyiv just for the passport, so they have to go to the US Embassy in Warsaw to get a replacement passport. Once they have that, Korpiewski plans to head to the United States with Mary.
A Ukrainian citizen, Iryna boarded a train bound for Dnipro on Friday. Calling her a “true heroine”, Korpiewski said she was on a “rescue mission” that would force Iryna to leave her parents behind. Along with food, water, electricity and fuel, Korpiewski said Iryna’s parents plan to stay in Dnipro. “It’s their home, they want to live there and they want to die there,” he said, adding, “it’s where they call home.”
On Thursday, Russia and Ukraine agreed evacuation corridors to help civilians escape the bombardment. This will temporarily stop fighting in some areas – but not everywhere – and Korpiewski hopes it will be the window his family needs to get out of the country safely.
“Iryna is on a rescue mission,” Korpiewski said. “It’s been a constant battle, but I’m determined to bring my daughter here.”
A GoFundMe account raised nearly $5,000. The donation request, written by David, reads in part: “My goal is twofold with this GoFundMe. First, Irina needs money for food and basic necessities at the refugee camp while waiting for a way to get to Mary.. Second, we need to get Mary out of where she is now and back to the US Unfortunately, we still haven’t figured out how to get Mary out, but we may need to hire someone ‘one with a car to make this dangerous journey.
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