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'It's a miracle': Fort Collins family reunites with Ukrainian grandmother at Denver International Airport

Connacher family reunites with Ukrainian grandmother
Posted at 11:58 AM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 13:58:25-04

DENVER — As the war drags on in Ukraine, more than 14 million people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations. They have been displaced throughout Europe and around the globe, including here in Colorado.

On Wednesday, the Connacher family from Fort Collins had a heartwarming reunion with their grandmother, Ludmila, at the Denver International Airport after she escaped the war-torn city of Mariupol.

“I was so nervous, because like I didn’t know how she [would] look,” said granddaughter Ayata Connacher. “And I was just super excited when I saw her. But, I didn’t recognize her [at first]. I mean, she has changed a lot.”

Ludmila, according to her family, was believed to be dead after her apartment building in Mariupol was hit by a rocket attack. However, the family found her name on a list online, designating individuals who were receiving handouts of food from Russian soldiers. Through a friend in a nearby city, they were able to find her alive and coordinate a plan to get her out of the country — a plan that included a 120-mile journey on a UN refugee bus, through various checkpoints where Ludmila had to lie about her family in America out of fear they would not allow her to leave.

“It’s totally amazing that she did it all herself,” said son-in-law Steve Connacher, who met Ludmila in Frankfurt, Germany, to accompany her on her first-ever plane ride. “It’s a miracle. I mean, it’s like she flipped the coin 10 times and hit heads every time. And if she’d gotten one tail, she wouldn’t be here. That’s what it is. I mean, it’s just amazing.”

In the video above, hear from the Connacher family and see the heartwarming moment they are able to see and hold their grandmother, now safe and sound in Colorado.