Milena Barshatskaya (Self)
Out From the Ashes is the harrowing story of Milena, a young woman from Ukraine, who along with her mother and grandmother (and cat), desperately struggle to escape their war- torn home while an army of supporters on the opposite side of the world fight to keep them safe. Milena survived the destruction of Mariupol, cowering for a month in the basement of a bombed-out building, watching her home and history burn. She managed to contact Ken Pontac, long-time Facebook friend and father figure. Their conversations bolstered Milena's spirits while Ken listened with growing apprehension. With food running low, Milena was "liberated" by Russians and taken at gunpoint to a Russian-controlled refugee camp in the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic. While imprisoned she slept on a filthy, freezing floor with her mother, grandmother, and 200 other kidnapped Ukrainians. After being rescued by a sympathetic Russian, Milena and family were released to a small apartment nearby. But she was still a prisoner. With Ken's help and the heroic efforts of the international team he assembled three generations of the family were extricated from their imprisonment, furtively couch surfing through Russian safe-houses until finally reaching what they believed was freedom in Estonia. A red-tape nightmare forced the family to return to their war-torn home, where they await the international documents that will help them find a life on the other side of the world...if only they're not recaptured by Russian troops again. This is not a story about war. This is a story about three generations of women (and a cat) caught in the middle. It's about finding their way to freedom with the help of a group they've never met and the virtual father who just wants his daughter to be safe.