From Ukraine to Iowa: Clinton woman gets mother out of worn-torn country | Local News

CLINTON – Natasha Johnson has lived in Iowa since immigrating from Ukraine in 2005. Shortly after arriving here, she got a job at Rastrelli’s Restaurant in Clinton and learned English by working as a server.

Her mother, Galina, a shy, polite woman, remained over 5,000 miles away in Ukraine. And that’s how it remained for many years.

Then on Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, starting what would become the largest war in Europe since World War II. In Clinton, Johnson was distracted and constantly in tears worrying about her mother. She promised her mother that she’d find a way to get her to the US

Johnson shared her story with the Clinton Rotary Club during its meeting Monday, telling members about the difficulties her mother faced and the distress she’d felt because of her own worries in the weeks prior to her mother’s arrival in the US

“I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep,” Johnson said. After the fighting began, her mother de ella spent the next few months in Ukraine living in a basement, without food or heat. Outside, everything was destroyed.

Meanwhile, Johnson worked to collect donations to pay for her mother’s airfare. Johnson needed enough for plane tickets from Ukraine to Poland and from Poland to Chicago. Her regular customers of her, knowing Johnson’s plight of her, would leave her $20 tips to help her make her dream of her come true.

Johnson’s mother arrived in Clinton on May 31. Once she did, Johnson’s mother looked up and, in her native Russian language said, “That’s a beautiful sky” and smiled.

Johnson responded, telling her mother this is her home now – an amazing country with beautiful people. Her mother de ella does not have to run through the destruction or hide in a basement. Now she’s safe. Now she has food and everything she needs.

Johnson added that she wasn’t the one who brought her mother to the United States, it was the people who’d given their own money who brought her here. Her mother of her was in disbelief over her display of kindness.

She’s one of about 15,000 people from Ukraine who’ve sought safety in the US since late February. During the day, her mother is enjoying her new home. But her experience of her occurred recently enough that she feels deep distress during the night, thinking she’s still in a basement in Ukraine. Johnson does her best to help, one night at a time.

Galina can remain in the US legally for six months. By the end of the six months she hopes to have her green card from her so she can stay indefinitely, since it’s unknown when the Russia-Ukraine war will end.

Johnson’s mother quietly wept while her daughter told her story to the Rotary Club. As she addressed the room in conclusion, Johnson said she’s been given a second life and hopes to spend the rest of it with her mother de ella.

“I will never forget what you’ve done,” she said. Getting her mother from her here into the US completely changed her life from her. Johnson can work normally again; she can breathe again.

“Thank you so much,” she said. “All my heart.”

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