ROMULUS, Mich. — At Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County airport, the Mattson family was anxiously waiting.
"We always thought that we'd see her again. Of course, not under these circumstances," said matriarch Kari Mattson.
The Michigan family played hosts to Ukrainian Valeriya Isakova when she was an exchange student at Tecumseh High School during the 2015-2016 school year. Now, Valeriya is back to the US, this time with her mother and brother.
Valeriya's father and grandfather were forced to stay behind, as required by her home country, while she traveled by foot across the border into Poland, eventually settling in Switzerland for a short period, before securing a flight to Paris, and eventually Detroit.
Mattson says it's a huge weight lifted knowing they'll be okay.
"For us, knowing that she's safe, and her family's safe, and can find peace here, and just relax," said Mattson.
The Mattson family stood by at the gate for over an hour, waiting to see some familiar faces. Finally, the automatic doors slid open to reveal the Isakova family. Invasion, heartache, and 4,000 miles of travel all led to moments of joy and relief.
"Happiness. Relief. It has been something we've been going through since the beginning, since the war started. [The U.S.] was our first point of where we wanted to go," said Valeriya.
Now, the 16 year-old and her family will re-start their lives in America.
"My brother will be able to go to school. Its like some kind of normal life. It is something we lost a long time ago," said Valeriya.
The Isakova family will need help to get off the ground. They'll be looking for jobs, health insurance, and of course, money.
Mattson says the family has already spent half of money raised on food and necessities while in Europe.
If you'd like to donate, you can visit their GoFundMe page.
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