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A foreign exchange program brought them together. Now, a Ukrainian mother and her children escape war with the help of a Suffolk family.

To Alex Yakovlyeva, the Daughetys in Suffolk have always been her second family. So when her world changed, they opened their home for her.

SUFFOLK, Va. — As Anna Yakovlyeva plays in Joseph Daughety's front yard in Suffolk, he can't help but see a striking resemblance.

‘She looks a lot like her mother did when she came to visit us," Daughety said.

Anna speaks virtually no English, but the jittery and carefree daughter can crack a smile among anyone, even in the most difficult of moments.

The yard she plays in feels a lot like home. After all, it's been the second home for Anna's mother, Alex Yakovlyeva, most of her life.

“It was of course completely different from my country," Yakovlyeva said. "Of course, they love it here.”

Yakovlyeva first entered the Daughety family's life more than 20 years ago as a foreign exchange student from Ukraine. She spent a year going to school and living with the American family.

“Me as her American father, my wife as her American mother, my daughter Candace as her sister," Joseph Daughety said. "To the kids, I’m sort of like the grandpa.”

RELATED: LIST: Hampton Roads organizations helping the people of Ukraine amid Russian invasion

Yakovlyeva is now married with two young children living in the city of Sumy, Ukraine, but the Daughety family never lost touch with her. She's visited the Suffolk family several times since the original exchange program brought them together when she was a teenager. The last time she came, her son was four and a half years old.

But their most recent reunion is not as joyous an occasion.

“She looked out from her apartment in Sumy, she saw smoke coming up from the airport and knew she was being attacked and they were getting close," Daughety said.

Along with her husband and two children, Yakovlyeva fled Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. 

“We were driving for 35 hours without stopping," Yakovlyeva told 13News Now, trying to reach the border of Hungary.

In February, the Daughety family had reached out to Yakovlyeva, asking her if she could evacuate the country for fear of her safety. It wasn't until this long car ride that Yakovlyeva and her husband decided flying to the United States was the best option for the family. 

That's the last time she and her children saw their father, who turned back to fight for his country against the invading Russian forces. There, she crossed into Hungary on foot and was helped by Hungarian volunteers to get to the Budapest airport.

“There were three points where I was ready to give up to tell you the truth. I thought we would not make it," Yakovlyeva said.

Meanwhile, Joseph Daughety had bought plane tickets in-person to make sure they arrived in the United States. 

Yakovlyeva hadn't stopped moving from last Thursday until they touched down at Dulles International Monday night. With virtually nothing but some spare changes of clothes, Yakovlyeva and her children are at least safe with the Suffolk family that's been her second home all her life.

“If this was your daughter how would you view this? She is our daughter," Daughety said.

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