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12-Year-Old Girl Escapes Russian-Occupied Crimea, Reunites With Mom In Newton

NEWTON (CBS) - Sweet Eva puts on a brave face, still smiling even after everything has changed. "For me it's so hard," she said.

The 12-year-old is safe with her parents in Newton, but so much of her heart remains in Russian-occupied Crimea.

"I'm a little bit nervous because I love Grandma and Grandpa," Eva said.

Eva had been living there, learning the language and being with family while her mother completes a nursing program in the US.

"Go with my dreams, go with my goals, and be helpful," mother Olesya Simonova said.

It became urgent last month to help her daughter - out of harm's way and home to the US. Eva's father traveled through Russia, Georgia and Armenia, finally arriving at Logan airport with his daughter 10 days later.

"I was so happy to see her but at the same time, heaviness in my heart was not gone," the mother said.

That heaviness lingers for her native Ukraine. Olesya had hoped to bring her skills from MGH Institute of Health Professions back to where she grew up - communities without access to great care. Now she doesn't know when she'll ever return to her family.

"I was afraid to hang up my phone because I thought if I disconnect something may happen that I may not be able to talk to them again," she said of communicating with her family.

She hopes to be able to help her people on medical mission trips. In the meantime, it feels like every phone call is filled with tears.

"I've been in denial a long time that something scary like that could ever happen," Olesya said. "This changed my world."

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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