Russia’s missiles this week hit home for Santa Clarita resident Carissa Brown.
Early Wednesday morning (Eastern European Time) when Russia’s assault began on Ukraine, Brown’s mom and dad — living in Kyiv, the country’s capital, just about 20 minutes away from the explosions — immediately wondered how they could send out encouragement to their fellow citizens.
“You have to understand, my parents are kind of unique,” Brown, 31, said in an interview with The Signal on Friday. “When all Americans are leaving Kyiv, my parents were like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to stay here.’ Yeah, those are my parents.”
Earlier in the week, Brown’s mom, 56, and her dad, 61, like so many others, saw video of Russian President Vladimir Putin say that he’d authorized what he called “a special military operation” against Ukraine. And when the bombing began, Brown’s parents, who she didn’t want to name or offer their pictures for publication for actual fear that Putin would find them and throw them out of the country or put them in a camp, left their home and went to their church about an hour away from the attacks.
“They were like, ‘Oh, I guess the war has actually started,’” Brown said.
Brown’s dad teaches pastors in that area. In fact, that’s how Brown and her family got to Ukraine in the first place. She was born in Glendale, but her dad, who was very involved in the church there, received a calling, Brown said, from a religious individual outside their church who told them to go and share the gospel with the people of what was then called the Soviet Union.
“This man was sharing how he recently had been to Ukraine, and just the hunger that people have,” Brown said. “And he said how they had a huge need for people to come and help train them to study and learn about God.”
At the time, Brown’s parents were already considering a move to Morocco to do something similar. This man outside the church, Brown said, seemed to be sharing what was meant to be.
And so, at 2 years old, Brown found herself in Kyiv, where she lived with her family until 2008 when she decided to study medicine at The Master’s College (now The Master’s University) in Santa Clarita. There she met Paul Brown, who she’d eventually marry.
The couple has two kids — a son who’s 4 years old and a daughter just over a year old. Brown is currently part of an independent study program called the Gorman Learning Charter Network in Palmdale, where she teaches families how to teach their kids. Her husband, the reason she said she’s remained in the U.S., is a restaurant manager in Valencia.
But Brown thinks about what she still calls home quite often. She didn’t even know explosions had begun earlier in the week until a friend texted and sent her regards to her family, which includes her parents and her older adopted brother. Brown also has two younger brothers, but they live here — one in Santa Clarita, the other in the state of Virginia.
And while she worries about her parents’ safety, Brown, like her mom and dad, feel they’ll be OK.
“I have a sense of peace,” Brown said. “Just trusting that God is in control. Because God is in control of everything. And he’s the one who brings up nations and takes down nations.”
Brown’s parents feel the same way. Her dad continues to teach at the church, and her mom, Brown said, has lots of ironing to do. That’s right, she irons clothes for the church, and she cooks, too — from scratch, Brown said, not from packages that you can get at, say, Costco.
Still, Brown said her heart breaks. “All the destruction. Kyiv is such a beautiful city. And all the innocent people being butchered and killed. They’ve always stood up for their freedom there. But both sides — so many Russians are just following along. I hope they turn away.”
Brown said she also stays in touch with three friends back home. She recently confirmed that two of them are OK. She’s waiting to hear from the third.
And as the missiles hit home — her parents’ current home city — Brown’s mom and dad have no plans to leave. This is, after all, Brown offered, their calling.
“Their work is to be done there,” Brown said. “They love the people. They’re a part of their lives. And they’re all at peace with that.”
Brown’s parents have now lived in Ukraine almost 30 years. They intend to keep it their home.