‘I wanted to go right over’: How 2 Leesburg doctors helped their nieces, nephew escape Ukraine

LEESBURG, Fla. — It’s a time 15-year-old Uliana Kucherova won’t forget.

She was home with her dad and siblings just outside Kyiev when Russia invaded the country.

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“My dad woke me up: ‘We need to pack everything really fast,’” she recalled.

The family fled, first to a neighbor’s basement where they stayed for days.

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“Nobody slept, nobody ate anything,” Kucherova said. “The only topic was how to leave, how to run.”

And they eventually did.

They spent days trying to get to the border until they finally made it to Romania. It was then time for Kucherova and her siblings to say goodbye to their father, who had to turn around and fight.

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The three were on their own, staying with family friends.

But back here in Orlando their aunt and uncle, Dr. George Hagerty and Dr. Oksana Hagerty, were already planning to come get them.

“I was a little hasty,” George Hagerty said. “I wanted to go right over.”

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Before they could bring the three children back, each child needed a visa. However, a visa application is 60 pages for each one of them.

“We had those with us and we finally decided to make the dive and go over March 10,” George Hagerty said.

The tricky part: there was no Plan B if they were denied visas at the U.S. Embassy. The children’s mother passed away 12 years ago, and their father was off fighting. To borders to Ukraine was closed.

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The young family members were approved for visitor visas, meaning they’re allowed to be here six months.

The family said they will try to obtain student visas for them.

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Kucherova said she misses home, especially her dad.

“We talk to each other every day, but it’s not really a conversation,” she said. “It’s just, ‘Are you OK?’”

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.