‘We had to get her out ourselves’: New Orleans family stuck in Poland after rescuing mother, grandmother from Ukraine

“I kind of liken it to Katrina, but after Katrina, we knew everything would be okay eventually,” said Bruce Godfrey. “These people don’t know that right now.”
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 4:43 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A couple from New Orleans, now living in Biloxi, has traveled thousands of miles to bring their aging mother back to the United States from Ukraine, but is stuck in Poland as they await her green card.

Bruce and Antonina Godfrey made the journey to rescue 80-year-old Hanna Khmyz, Antonina’s mother, from her home city of Khmelnytskyi as the Russian invasion into the country continues. Khmyz was living with the sounds of air raid sirens blaring constantly.

“She just got to where she was ignoring them, and after a while, it just wore on her,” Bruce Godfrey said. “We just felt we had to come over and get her out ourselves.”

Antonina, who’s from Ukraine, called her friends of more than three decades. She was able to get one of them to drive her mother to the Poland border.

“These friends of hers from 30 years ago brought Momma to the border,” Bruce Godfrey said. “They could have easily stepped across the border and came with us. They got Momma to the border, turned right back around and went right back to their hometown. That to me is just amazing.”

A sigh of relief: Hanna was finally out of Ukraine.

“She’s ready to come back,” Antonina Godfrey said. “She understands she has to be here because it’s war, but she wants to go back to her house. It’s her whole life. She said, ‘It’s my whole life, it’s my savings, it’s everything.’”

They drove back to Warsaw, Poland’s capital and the location of the American embassy. Fortunately, last summer they applied for a green card for Hanna.

But they’re stuck in a loop. Bruce went to the embassy and stood in line, was told he needed to come back with an appointment, and made one for the next day.

When he came back, embassy staff told him he had the wrong type of appointment.

“I really just want some direction. I really want a face-to-face meeting to tell me what I have to do,” he said. “If I have to do 100 steps, tell me what number one, number two is, and I’ll start doing them.”

“We’re just kind of stuck right now.”

They hope someone will see their story and help them get the green card expedited, which Bruce said is currently at the National Visa Center here in the U.S.

He said he made an appointment, but it’s not until April 7.

Hanna’s story is just one of many, as nearly two million Ukrainians flee their country, some with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

“This is people’s lives. You put all your life into something and you have to leave,” Antonina Godfrey said.

“I kind of liken it to Katrina, but after Katrina, we knew everything would be okay eventually. These people don’t know that right now,” Bruce Godfrey said. “Looking at TV is one thing, looking at these women and children here, it’s totally something else.”

Despite their current situation, the Godfrey’s said they’re glad to have Hanna and to know she’s safe from the war.

“I literally cannot wait to just see her and hug her since I haven’t seen her for so many years,” said her granddaughter, Anna Kushnir. “I want her to be with me, I want to be with her. She took care of me from when I was a baby.”

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