The Lead Pastor of Painesville's First Church of Christ has finally received the peace of mind and heart he so longed for after hearing from her "unofficial daughter" in Ukraine, 43 days after he last heard from her.
ChurchLeaders reported that Pastor Trevor Littleton has not heard from 26-year-old Nastya, who he considers his daughter but is too old to adopt her. Littleton, who refers to himself as The Adoption Guy, has nine children--four biological and five adopted from Ukraine including Nastya's younger brother. This excludes Nastya and 20-year-old Dasha, who are also Ukrainians--the former from Mariupol and the latter from Lviv-that Littleton considers his daughters.
A Surrogate Daughter Hiding To Live
Littleton. who aspires to expand First Church of Christ beyond Lake County, told Spectrum News 1 Ohio that he last heard of Nastya in March. During that call, Nastya informed him that she was too afraid to have a video chat with him since she was getting ready to flee Mariupol and the bombing was too loud outside her apartment. She told him that she was sleeping in her closet and had readied a bag with a bottle of water. Littleton lost communication with her afterward.
Since then, they have been scouring through every news information and footage from Ukraine to see if Nastya is there. Friends and acquaintances would also send them news clippings on children and people escaping or evacuating Ukraine, especially when a brunette is involved. Littleton told Spectrum News that he'd check the footage frame by frame to see if the brunette referred to is their Nastya. And he'll feel disappointment each time it wasn't.
Things changed when he got an emotional call from his wife who told him the good news that Nastya is alive. His wife told him that Nastya's old boss informed her that their daughter is alive.
"A lot of joy. And when you're numb to the tragedy, it's almost like am I numb to the joy upfront here because there's just that idea of this can't be this good. Like we've waited this long for it," Littleton said.
The Surrogate Daughter Flees To Safety
According to Littleton, Nastya was isolated in her apartment for three weeks unable to use her own phone. Her apartment's building was one of those hit in Mariupol, which Littleton saw was black on the outside and had windows out through pictures posted in various news reports. The 26-year-old eventually was convinced by another family member to get out of the apartment and get to a humanitarian checkpoint for her needed food, water, and hygiene.
Natsya had to register with Russia to get to that humanitarian checkpoint safely. She had to register for the Russians to know she was seeking help. This allowed her to get hold of another cellphone that had a Spanish SIM card in it. She used the SIM card and put it in her phone, which prevented her from getting access to her own address book to get in touch with Littleton. But she remembered her old boss' cellphone number and called to ask for help to get in touch with Littleton.
"So, through all of that, she called her old boss who got a hold of us and was like, 'Hey, we just talked to her,'" Littleton recounted.
Eventually, Natsya personally got in touch with Littleton, who is now processing her evacuation. Natsya is traveling through a Russian-occupied territory and headed for a country outside Russian control, where Littleton will meet her and get her to safety.
Last March, Littleton was able to secure Dasha's safety by instructing her to leave Lviv for Poland. The pastor met Dasha in Poland and moved her to Parish while he is working on her US Visa. The pastor hopes the same would be done for Natsya as soon as she gets to safe soil.