NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Valerie Donski, a local mother and wife, is back home with her family after she was stranded in Russia for roughly a week with almost no way of getting back.
Donski went to Russia back in March to visit family, but spent an unexpected extra week after her March 31 return flight was canceled. Donski told News 3 in a previous interview on Sunday that she did not know why the flight was canceled.
She stayed in Moscow, Russia's capital, until she could board another flight on April 3. The boarding process appeared to go well with no problems until she and the passengers were told to deplane. She captured the moment on video and posted the ordeal to Facebook.
She did not get concise answers from Aeroflot, Russia's national airline. Reports came in of Russia closing its border because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow stated on its website that international flights out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport were suspended.
"You think some things are planned for sure, and unfortunately things like this that you don't have any control over is kind of scary," Donski told News 3 on Friday with her husband, Adam, and daughter by her side. "I felt like my life was in someone else's hands and there was nothing I could do about it."
Adam said Valerie was contacted by Aeroflot Tuesday morning about a sudden flight leaving later in the morning. The message told Valerie to arrive at the airport for that flight. Her original return flight ticket would be exchanged for this flight at no extra charge.
The flight arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the evening. Adam said she had to drive down to Newport News in a rental car, but she eventually made it back to her family.
"I couldn't believe it. It was like a dream when I saw her pull up in the driveway and I finally saw her," Adam said. "I had this huge feeling of relief and exhaustion at the same time."
Unfortunately, Valerie missed her daughter's birthday this past week but will celebrate the following weekend as a family. She also missed her naturalization ceremony, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said on its website all naturalization ceremonies will be postponed due to the pandemic.