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'She Can't Go Home': Ukraine Exchange Student In Colorado Springs Faces Uncertain Future

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)- For the last week, Colorado Springs mom Mary Wells has been looking for answers.

"I'm just overwhelmed in how to help her right now," Wells said.

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(credit: Mary Wells)

Wells and her family have been hosting a 16-year-old Ukrainian exchange student since August, but the ongoing crisis in Ukraine brings an unknown future, for not only the student but also for the student's family who remains in Crimea. Wells requested we conceal the student's identity for safety reasons.

"We're trying to figure out what to do because she can't go home," said Wells. "Right now, they are actually stuck there, her parents and her brother, because they have blocked all the borders, and they're not letting them in or out."

Currently, Wells is looking for legal help for her student, and she's not the only one wondering what this could mean for Ukrainians in the U.S.

"I've received so many messages and calls, it's a mad scramble right now to get loved ones out of Ukraine and to the U.S.," Ilona Starchak said, who is the owner of Starchak Immigration Law Firm, PLLC.

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(credit: CBS)

Starchak is Ukrainian. Her father is still in the country, so she resonates with many of the families reaching out to her. Starchak told CBS4 since the war began she's received upwards of 200 inquiries, ranging from visa extensions to humanitarian parole. There are even people in Ukraine contacting her for help.

"It's absolutely horrifying there," said Starchak. "All of them are feeling helpless, they don't know what to do. They are desperate."

And Wells feels a little bit of that desperation. While her exchange student has a flight back to Ukraine in May, It's likely she won't be able to catch it. Wells hopes to get her student's J-1 visa extended. Recently, she's reached out to the exchange program for guidance, as well as the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. She's also looking for a lawyer to possibly take on their case pro-bono. But until then the family is left waiting.

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(credit: Mary Wells)

"She needs strength, she needs a parent, and she doesn't have hers to wrap her arms around," Wells said.

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