The Missouri mother-of-five was determined to bring them all to safety.
A Missouri mother-of-five was determined to bring 31 orphans to safety from Ukraine. When Russia's attack on Ukraine began, Wendy Farrell from Springfield knew she had to be alert.
She founded the 1U Project in 2015 which is a charitable organization that helps Ukrainian orphans. When the crisis in the country began, she knew she had to help her "kiddos." "We wanted to be a family, and that is what we have cultivated," she told PEOPLE.
Missouri Mom Travels Half a World Away to Help 31 Orphans Escape from Ukraine https://t.co/iUeUFwvLgO— People (@people) April 14, 2022
Along with other volunteer caregivers working on securing visas to the U.S. and taking care of the children, Farrell helped get the kids, who are between the ages of two and 17, from a western Ukrainian city north of Lviv to Poland. Lviv was a possible target as it was home to a military base. Working with Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield and Nikolay Shagarov, director of Children's Path, an orphanage outside Lviv, plans were made to get the kids out of the area. "We gassed up the bus so it was ready to go. Suitcases were packed," Farrell said, according to The Sun. "When Russia invaded, our director went to the government authorities to travel across the border with the children."
Fortunately, Shagarov was able to get permission from the government to take 31 orphans out of the country. The journey took 10 hours and covered over 300 miles. The kids burst into singing as they entered neighboring Poland, reaching Krakow on March 1. "We're in a good place for now," Farrell said. "They're doing well overall. They're very resilient. They're with people who love them, but they're scared. They're worried about the future. They don't like not knowing what tomorrow will hold."
Now, the volunteers are seeking U.S. visas to provide the children with a longer-term place of refuge if needed. "The concern is that they're in a foreign country with over two million other Ukrainian refugees and this is not sustainable for a country the size of Poland," Farrell said. "They're living out of suitcases, they don't know the people here and it's traumatic enough to have to flee your country. They want to be with people who they know." While the children are enjoying their freedom for now, where is home? "If we can go home," said Shagarov, the orphanage director, "will my home still be there?" Farrell is trying to look at the bright side despite the uncertainties. "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."
Representational Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Fiordaliso