Their daughter, Angelina, just turned 18 last month but they say she has the mind of a 5-year-old.
When she applied for a green card, the family received a letter from U.S. Immigration saying she should make arrangements to leave the country as soon as possible, then apply to emigrate back to the United States from Ukraine — a process that could take years.
But she can never live on her own, according to her parents.
“She’s about (a) 5- to 7-year-old child who really probably needs care for the rest of her life. Somebody needs to be with her because she can’t take care of herself,” Angelina’s brother, Demaa Nesterenko, said.
They said they fled their country because of religious persecution and because Demaa publicly advocated for his sister and other kids with mental disabilities — something, he says, that is frowned on by the Ukrainian government.
The other problem: his father is Ukrainian and his mother is Russian.
Finding a safe home might be impossible.
“It’s scary. People are really scared. They’re hiding in any place they can find just to feel safe,” Nesterenko said.
It is a mother’s worst nightmare.
“It’s just dangerous and scary for me. I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen to her and on top of that she has special needs care 24/7. She needs her medication,” Angelina’s mother, Oksana Nesterenko, said through a translator.
Lesley Irizarry-Hougan is one of the top immigration attorneys in the state.
She says there is hope for Angelina and her family.
“I think she has a pretty good case for asylum. There is a way to apply for asylum past the one year, an exception based on changed country circumstances, one of them is political. Also based on her disability there also is an exception to that,” Irizarry-Hougan said.
So for now Oksana chooses to stay positive.
“I think in the end of it we’re going to have happy ending and the government will let us stay my kids with me here,” Oksana Nesterenko said.
While everyone involved is optimistic, nothing is certain and what’s worse for the family — Angelina has two younger sisters, 12 and 14, who will likely have to deal with the same thing when they turn 18.