KENT, Ohio — A 32-year-old teacher from Ukraine is stranded in Northeast Ohio and deeply worried about her family back in her home country.
Mila, who didn't want her last name used, has been at Kent State since late January as part of the Fulbright Training Excellence and Achievement Program (TEA), a U.S government-funded global exchange program for teachers.
She has been taking classes on media literacy and critical thinking and the plan was to fly back to Ukraine on March 11 to pass on the lessons she learned to Ukrainian students in grades two through 11.
However, the war which she didn't expect to break out, has turned her world upside down and is preventing her from returning to Ukraine to be reunited with her husband and their 5-year-old daughter.
"It's very tough to be separated and I usually ask people, I usually ask God, why am I here? I feel a little bit selfish like why am I here in this safe place?" she said.
Her family lives in a village in eastern Ukraine, but when the bombing started Mila's husband and daughter fled. First, they went with friends to a central part of the country. But as the Russian army continued to advance, they moved again to the western region.
"He (Mila's husband) didn't take anything. He took our documents and he didn't take any clothes, any food, nothing, just nothing. Everything is left," Mila said.
Her parents and her sister have also moved in with family members in the western region, but Mila was very concerned about them initially until she learned they were safe from the war-torn conditions in eastern Ukraine.
"I was very like fearful about whether my parents are still alive or not because there is no electricity, no water, no connection, nothing. They were just using candles in the basement."
Mila has been able to stay in contact with various relatives via text and sometimes through video calls, which have been both a relief and heartbreaking for the mother, especially when she talks to her little girl.
"And now, she's constantly asking me, 'Mom, when are you going to come back home? I want you to come back home." And actually, we don't know what's happened with our home. We don't know if it's normal or if it's broken," Mila told News 5.
Adding to the anguish, Mila said she doesn't know if her mother-in-law and father-in-law are safe. They haven't been heard from since the war started.
"No one can understand because if you're not in the same shoes, you cannot have the same feelings," she said.
Mila realizes it's too dangerous to return to Ukraine right now and pointed out that many of the airports have been targeted during the invasion.
"Most of the airports are destroyed and this is what happened on the 24th of February. They bombed the biggest airports."
Mila's Visa has been extended through mid-April, allowing her to stay in the U.S. Her plan is to go to Florida to stay with relatives starting on Friday, but after that, she doesn't know what will happen or when she will see her family again.
"Frankly speaking, I don't know. I wouldn't like to get stuck here because this wasn't my plan. I was going to come back home."
With so much fear and uncertainty surrounding the war, Mila stressed all she can do is ask for prayers.
"Pray for Ukraine. Pray for peace," she said. "This war should stop because God just cannot give so much suffering for people."