Local woman stranded in Russia on her way home

Posted at 11:34 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 17:01:41-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - It was supposed to be a happy trip for Valerie Donski as she was the first to travel to Russia to see her family since she arrived in the United States. It has been 17 years, but when it was time to return home, she was met with an unexpected canceled flight.

"My heart dropped because, of course, as everybody else's," Donski told News 3 by phone from Moscow, Russia. "We didn't think it was going to be a big matter."

She traveled to Novosibirsk, Russia where her family resided on March 12. She was supposed to return on March 31 from Novosibirsk and connect flights at Moscow-Sheretmeyevo International Airport.

Her husband, Adam, and her three children were waiting to welcome her home when they got the update.

"Just a sudden rush just took me over," Adam Donski said. "I felt flushed, I felt exhausted, flattered, sick to my stomach almost because I knew things at that point were turning for the worst."

That is because Valerie was told of a later flight she could board to get back to the United States. It later turned out that flight was also canceled.

Valerie said she stayed at a hotel in Moscow while other passengers waiting to exit Russia slept on benches at the airport.

She and others secured spots on a flight on April 3, she said. The passengers were seated, Valerie said, the plane's engines sounded and that the plane was about to back away from the gate, but they later found out that flight would be canceled too.

"The pilot literally went on the speaker-phone and announced," Valerie explained, "'The flight was canceled, please leave the airplane. That was it."

She and Adam said information from government officials, as well as Aeroflot staff, Russia's national airline, were limited.

Reports came in of Russia closing its borders to mitigate the coronavirus spread. The United States Embassy in Moscow said on its website, "Effective March 20, Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow announced that its international terminals E and C will be closed for arrivals and departures from March 20 to April 30."

She was scheduled to arrive at Norfolk International Airport after a connection in New York. Right now, the embassy also said on its website that a chartered flight was being planned, but Valerie said they did not get that information.

"If it gets approved, when, what time, who gets on it, how much space we have, how much is it going to cost," She said. "I feel at this point people are very frustrated."

Sadly, she already missed her naturalization ceremony and will miss her daughter's third birthday this week. Regardless, they are still pragmatic and hope to be reunited.

"You never know what this life can bring," Adam said. "There's so many hurdles and obstacles that are set in front of you, in front of life."

As for Valerie, she said, "I just want to come home to my babies."

The family says they have reached out to Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner's offices, and local congressional representatives. At the time this story was published, they have not obtained answers. That also includes the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

On April 7, Adam said Valerie is currently on a flight home. He said Aeroflot contacted her Tuesday morning to change her return ticket for a flight that is now airborne.

Adam told us Valerie wasn't charged extra for this flight and that she's expected to arrive in the states Tuesday night.

CORRECTION: There was a typo and mispronunciation with the last name. The proper spelling is "Donski."