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Davis Journal

Bountiful couple escape Ukraine as Russian invasion begins

Mar 09, 2022 04:23PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Ryan and Anastasia Patin were visiting her family in Ukraine the day Russian tanks began rolling into the country. Her parents helped them flee the country by driving them toward the Polish border, but roads were blocked and the couple had to walk three miles and get a ride for the final nine miles of their escape. They left their belongings behind in her parents’ car. Now, Anastasia keeps in touch with her family as best she can, monitoring the daily events in the war-torn nation where she was raised.

“When we left Utah for Ukraine on Feb. 13, everything seemed fine,” the Bountiful resident said. “We were hearing the rumors about what Russia was doing with their military along the borders, but I don’t think anyone really believed it – not until that Saturday (Feb. 26) when we woke up and found out the airport had been bombed. We heard the sirens and we knew we needed to run and escape quickly just to save our lives.”

The Patins were at the Utah State Capitol on Feb. 28 for the “Stand With Ukraine” rally, just two days after leaving the country, traveling from Krakow to Amsterdam and then back to Salt Lake City. It was a harrowing 36+ hour experience.

Anastasia met Ryan, who was raised in Bountiful, while he was a Latter-day Saint ward missionary leader. 

“I had gone to Ukraine years ago,” he said. “While I was out there, I had no reception on my phone when I had stepped into a grocery story, and that’s where I met her mother, who was the store manager. She invited me to dinner where Anastasia and I met. We stayed in contact as friends and things developed from there.”

Anastasia lived in Zhytomyr, where she taught English in a school before moving to Utah. She learned after they returned to Utah that the school had been destroyed by a Russian missile. Fortunately, there were no students in the school – just a couple of adults who were not injured. The fate of her family remains a constant worry.

“All of my family is still there, and now my father is fighting for Ukraine,” she said. “He’s handicapped, but they took him and he’s fighting the best he can. He’s 47, and any male ages 18-60 are asked to join the military in defense of their country.”

This past Tuesday, she spoke to her godmother who lives in the Borispol region of Ukraine. She told Anastasia that “she hears shooting and rockets right outside her window, every 10-15 minutes. My dad has told me he’s seen several Russian soldiers who have been killed just lying in the streets – no efforts by the Russian military to pick up their bodies. Even though they invaded, these Russian soldiers don’t have supplies. They go into stores and Ukrainians can see they are exhausted and hungry, and offer them food. I’m really proud of the Ukrainian people and our military.”

Anastasia got her green card in February and can now permanently work and live in the United States. She plans to continue her path to full citizenship over the next three years. She is very appreciative of the support she’s seen from Americans, especially those here in Utah.

“I am so grateful for the prayers being offered for Ukraine,” she said. “So many people are reaching out to help, and of course I wish there was more that could be done. But I know that my family and others in Ukraine are well aware of efforts being made on their behalf. At least for now, I can have contact with my family daily – not for long periods of time because power goes on and off and cell phone reception isn’t great – but it’s a little. I have anxiety, but also a belief in the power of prayer and asking God to watch over them.” λ