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Family escaping Ukraine forced to leave dad behind

2:12 PM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
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Jamestown native Taylor Smetska looks on as her mother, Summer Spitz, meets her granddaughter for the first time. (Photo: WGRZ)



CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WGRZ) - It was a bittersweet homecoming at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport around midnight Wednesday as a young woman with ties to Western New York returned home from Ukraine.

Taylor Smetska, 20, grew up in Jamestown but now lives in Simferopol, Crimea - an area of Ukraine now defined by rising tensions and armed Russian troops.

Smetska and her husband met three years ago when her family traveled to Ukraine to adopt a child. They married a year later and have a three month old daughter.

The U.S. Embassy contacted Smetska last week and told her it was no longer safe where she was, and she needed a plan to leave.

Smetska and her daughter had plane tickets but couldn't fly out of Simferopol after armed Russian guards took control of the airport. They traveled 16 hours by train to Kiev so they could get a flight out of Ukraine, but Smetska's husband, Kostya, had to stay behind while he waits for a visa. He was denied twice before.

Smetska said her family is working with Congressman Tom Reed's office to try and get him a visa so he can be reunited with his family.

"I feel that there have been many obstacles along the way. We've just been getting by to get to here finally," Smetska. "I am happy to be home and be somewhere safe."

Smetska hasn't been to Western New York in about a year, and her mother met the baby for the first time Wednesday.

"Of course this isn't how we wanted to meet her for the first time, but we feel blessed that we'll see them and they are safe," said Smetska's mother, Summer Spitz.

By Heather Ly, and Nathan Benson, WGRZ

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