A Missouri mother is being praised for traveling to Ukraine to help 31 orphans safely flee from the now war-torn country.
Wendy Farrell lives in Springfield, Missouri with her husband Ryan and their five children. Back in 2013, Farrell adopted a 13-year-old Ukrainian girl named Alona. During this time, she also partnered with a Christian orphanage in western Ukraine to help children in need.
She collected money and clothes for the orphans stateside. She even escorted friends and family on trips over to engage with the kids she grew attached to.
“We wanted to be a family, and that is what we have cultivated,” she said.
When war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, she feared for the lives of the children she’d grown to love. She wanted to help them get to safety as soon as possible. Her original plan was to get them safely to the U.S. to wait out the war. But sadly, the children couldn’t get visas to travel until July. Not wanting to wait, Ferrell jumped on a flight to Poland.
Upon arriving in Poland, she partnered with the leaders of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield and converged with Nikolay Shagarov, the director of Children’s Path – an orphanage right outside Lviv. They planned to ferry the children to safety.
It took six days for Shagrov to win government approval to take 31 orphans, ages 2-17, out of the country with five caregivers. They traveled 300 miles on buses with other evacuees. It took 10 hours per day with some children breaking into song as they entered into Poland. They reached Krakow on March 2.
“I did not breathe a sigh of relief, until they were across the border,” Ferrell said.
Lena, a 26-year-old caregiver at the orphanage, who fled with the group, shared her experience of fleeing with the children.
“When we told them about traveling to Poland, for the little kids it was a little journey…We knew we would meet our friends [in Poland]. It made us more peaceful,” Lena said.
Upon reuniting, Farrell states that despite losing everything, they are thankful for being together and arriving safely.
The kids of Children’s Path are staying in a dorm-like setting an hour south of Krakow where they await being settled. Farrell and others have assisted her in boosting the children’s morale with smiles, hugs, and a hope for familiarity.
“I feel more comfortable because I know these people,” said 15-year-old Leah who lives in Children’s Path. When speaking of Farrell, she adds: “She has a huge heart.”
The youngest children are now enrolled in a local school in Poland while the oldest receive online learning from teachers in Ukraine. They spent their free time playing basketball, volleyball, and having snowball fights.
No matter how much her family in the United States misses her, Farrell refuses to go back unless the children get permitted to go with her.
“I will not leave them. I have five daughters at home who need me, but my children here need me as well and I am their advocate and support,” she said.
She still asks for financial help and will continue to take care of the orphans until the end of the war.
“These children are like extended family to me,” she said. “I don’t know when, but I believe one day they’ll be able to go home.”
As this war continues, we hope that more kids from Ukraine are able to make it out with more people like Farrell.