‘Welcome to America’: Family with Baton Rouge ties finally reunited after fleeing Ukraine
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A family with ties to Baton Rouge is back in Louisiana after a tough journey out of war-torn Ukraine.
“It’s just really hard to believe it’s finally going to end. That we’re finally going to see them again,” said Jeffrey White Sr.
Jeffrey White Jr. was born and raised in Baton Rouge, but he moved to Ukraine in 2019 where he met his wife Katya.
In February 2022, the couple had their first child, Jeff White III. Two weeks later, Russian forces bombed and invaded their hometown.
The family was forced to flee to Poland and have spent the last two months fighting to get to Louisiana.
“I can’t believe it’s finally going to be over,” White Sr. said.
On Saturday, May 21, the family finally made it to the U.S. The family took a flight from Poland to Chicago and hopped on a connecting flight to New Orleans.
This was also the first time White Sr. and his wife got to meet their grandchild.
White Sr. asked, “Oh my God. Did you ever think it would happen?”
White Jr. replied, “I really didn’t.”
Even though the journey is complete, White Jr. said it wasn’t easy getting here.
“It’s surreal. The heat and humidity are the only thing keeping me in reality right now that I’m actually here,” White Jr. said.
White Jr. said it took them weeks to get a visa for his wife, and just as long to get the proper paperwork so baby Jeff could travel.
Since he was only a few days old at the time of the invasion, he never got a birth certificate. So, his parents had to submit a DNA test to prove he was their son.
“The only ones that count are the ones that come from specific American labs. So we had to buy it, get it sent over, and in Poland, they don’t do not do DNA tests at the embassy,” White Jr. said.
On their flight to Louisiana, they were forced to make an emergency landing in Iceland after someone had a medical emergency on the plane. This delayed their arrival by a day.
Through it all, White Jr. said he’s reluctant to finally be back home.
“There’s been so much prayer and worry and thought and work that it’s amazing… I don’t think it’s registered that it’s actually over.”
The family plans to throw a party in the coming weeks to celebrate their homecoming.
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