Russia’s entry into the Crimea and the weekend referendum there has a North Texas man on edge. His Ukrainian-born wife and her three children from a previous relationship are stranded there.
Todd and Olena Spink were married in the U.S. in September of 2102. But in what he calls a blunder, Olena felt her youngest, just a baby, was too young to travel here, so the child stayed with relatives. Then the unrest in Ukraine began.
“I am very worried. I didn’t put kids to school,” Olena tells CBS 11 News in an interview from the Ukraine.
Olena and Todd Spink get together daily on Skype. It’s how he sees his wife and the children. Olena and the two oldest have green cards, but her youngest was with her mother back in the Ukraine. Then last fall the protests against the government in Kiev began. Olena took the two oldest children back to fetch the baby, Korina. But they couldn’t get a U.S. entry visa for Korina. Olena won’t leave without her.
She feels stranded. “I am scared go outside very much. I just go buy some food and quickly come back. And I prefer that my kids don’t go outside, either,” Olena told CBS 11 News.
The situation with the Russian presence in Crimea has the family nervous. They worry Russia could come deeper into Ukraine, even its capital, Kiev, and that they would likely come through an important river town, Shchors to do it…that’s where Olena lives, and a vital bridge spanning the river is just a ten minute walk from where she is staying. She says Ukrainian tanks are already massing at the bridge to defend it. “I just pray every day, every night about the situation will be better,” she says.
Husband Todd Spink is worried. “When the bullets start flying, there won’t be gas, there won’t be food, there won’t be anything.” Olena says the stores will accept credit cards, but the food is months out of date. Ukrainian versions of ATMs are out of cash, but she needs cash to buy fresh meat and produce from local farmers.
Spink’s lawyer is trying to get Texas Senator John Cornyn to help speed up the visa process. “There are ways out,” Todd Spink says, “but the problem is Korina can’t leave. And given this situation, now could it be possible to be here as a mother and your daughter — your youngest daughter — in Ukraine dealing with this situation?”
If an invasion of Ukraine occurs, they will try to get Korina to the U.S. on a tourist visa and then apply for permanent status here. They hope it won’t have to come to that.
“I try and stay busy and not think,” says Todd. “That’s about the only way I can deal with it because if I think about it, it terrifies me. It terrifies me to think I may never see my wife and kids again. That’s a possibility.”
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