The Florida parents of a baby born last Saturday in Ukraine managed to escape the war-torn country with the newest addition to their family.
Ami and Michael Kowalski were able to leave the country and make it to Slovakia with their 5-day-old daughter.
“I don’t think we’ll be fully relieved until we’re home to be honest,” Ami told TODAY in an interview that aired Thursday. “But we’re safe now. And that’s the biggest thing.”
The Kowalskis traveled from their home to the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv days before Russia launched its invasion. Their surrogate went into labor while in a bomb shelter, but the couple said they never considered leaving without their child.
“No, that was never an option,” Ami said.
About an hour after Charlotte was born, the family had to leave. Ami said they were guided by people who looked after them.
“Every turn of this story is just angels that were there and supported us, like I would never have imagined,” she said.
One of the people who stepped up to help was a Ukrainian woman named Marina who is the namesake for the Kowalski’s daughter, who they named Charlotte Marina.
“She wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Ami said.
While Charlotte may have made it to safety, there are many other children in orphanages and hospitals who continue to face danger by remaining in Ukraine.
Abundance International, an organization working to get supplies and medicine to orphanages in the country, says it’s a complex issue
“In an orphanage with infants to four years old and a third of those are disabled, Down syndrome, have special medical needs, it makes it very difficult to try to move them,” Abundance International Founding Director Mark Davis told TODAY.
Despite the complex challenges of helping kids, there is some good news. A Pittsburgh man named Allen Sherwood worked with a priest to rescue 22 orphans, along with other children and a few adults.
“The end game would really be get the kids to America where they can have a life and they have the freedoms and they have the safety and would grow up in a great country,” he told Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI.
The Kowalskis are not the only American parents scrambling to get a newborn from Ukraine to safety. Georgia's Lenny and Moishe Spektor have been hard at work trying to get their premature twins.
“It’s unimaginable, what can I say? It’s impossible to wrap your mind around,” Spektor told TODAY in an interview that aired Tuesday.