CLEVELAND — Trevor Littleton, pastor at First Church of Christ, is breathing a sigh of relief with news his loved one is safe after weeks of worrying.

What You Need To Know

  • In March, Trevor Littleton reunited with one of his unofficial daughters

  • A northeast Ohio pastor with strong ties to Ukraine has been searching for a young woman he considers his daughter for more than a month.

  • He told Spectrum News he’s finally been able to connect with her and is now working to get her to safety.

“A lot of joy,” he said. “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.”

Forty-three days passed before he heard from Nastya, a 26-year-old woman in Ukraine who he considers his daughter.

His wife called him during a church meeting with amazing news.

“So, I pick it up and she’s crying on the other line and she says ‘Nastya is alive,’” he said. “That’s all I could get out of her was that Nastya was alive. So, obviously I get emotional with it.

“And then now we kind of talked through everything and she had confiscated a cellphone, a SIM card from someone else. It was a Spanish SIM card that she pulled from a phone and put it in hers. All her contacts and stuff were wiped, but she remembered her boss’s cellphone number. And we’ve been in contact with her boss. We’ve known her from other things. So, through all of that, she called her old boss who got ahold of us and was like, ‘Hey, we just talked to her.’”

The Littletons are now piecing together what Nastya has been through. They said she stayed in her Mariupol apartment, isolated and unable to use her phone for weeks.

“Her building was — we saw pictures of it where it was hit,” he said. “Just the sides of it were black, windows were out, and she lived in that for three weeks before it was another family member is all we can get out of it, who came in and convinced her to come out because you know, you’re a young pretty girl. Not big. Stuck here for weeks. The fear to leave her apartment was a lot.”

Littleton said she made it to a humanitarian checkpoint to receive food, water and hygiene items.

“She had to register to get that help,” Littleton said. “She had to register with Russia, that she was receiving help and then Russia will boast ‘look at all the people we help’ when you’re really, it’s kind of like the abuser. You’re abusing someone else and then allowing them help later. It’s really bad, but we saw her name on that checklist. Then the phone call came.”

Ever since then, they’ve been working with her to coordinate an evacuation plan. As of the publication of this article, she’s traveling through a Russian-occupied route to get to a nearby country not under Russia’s control.

Poor cellphone reception has made it a challenge to communicate, but Littleton plans to meet her wherever she ends up.

“Same day booking a ticket and I’ll be over,” he said.

In March, Littleton had reunited with his other unofficial daughter, Dasha, at the Poland-Ukraine border.

Dasha is 21 and living in Paris. Littleton is working to get her to Canada, and eventually the United States.

But right now, she’s safe.

“I’m very excited because her life is ahead of her now and she has the opportunities now that she would not have had before,” he said.

The Littleton family comprises four biological children and five adopted children from Ukraine. A bomb recently destroyed the orphanage some of his children grew up in.

They consider Dasha and Nastya to be their daughters, but they were too old to be legally adopted. 

Nastya’s brother, Sergei, is one of their adopted sons. They said the experience has been especially hard on him.

Although there is still uncertainty, Littleton is hopeful he’ll be able to see his daughter soon.

“This whole thing is like if you had a child who was kidnapped and then finally getting them back,” he said. “That’s really kind of the emotion that was going on.”