A Wetumpka man was evacuated from Kyiv, Ukraine after tensions continued to mount between Ukraine and Russia.
Isaac Stubbs, a valedictorian graduate from Wetumpka and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), had been in Ukraine for nearly eight months, along with many other foreign and local missionaries. After increased tension between Ukraine and neighboring Russia, the leadership of the LDS church decided to evacuate the missionaries.
According to Isaac’s father, Troy Stubbs, a former LDS missionary to Russia, Isaac Stubbs is stateside and in good spirits. Isaac Stubbs is currently safe in Chicago, where he will serve out the rest of his mission.
“He arrived in the U.S about 36 hours ago, and after 29 hours of travel,” Troy Stubbs told 1819 News.
“After graduating Wetumpka High School, he decided to serve a mission, which is a two-year commitment,” Troy Stubbs said. “Of course, this was right in the middle of the pandemic. I guess he officially started in June of 2020. He was assigned to Ukraine, and he was assigned to learn the Russian language.”
After serving a brief time in Dallas, when travel restrictions were lessened, Isaac Stubbs made his way to Ukraine, where he began his mission. Isaac Stubbs spent most of his time in a rural city called Dnipro but was later moved to the capital city of Kyiv, anticipating the potential need to evacuate.
“He was in Ukraine since the end of April, so he was there for about eight months," Troy Stubbs said. "When he was there, he was living in just small little communities. This past December, right around Christmas, they moved all the missionaries to one central location.”
Although there was rising anticipation of a potential conflict with Russia, Issac Stubbs told his father the chatter did not faze locals.
“Initially, when there were indications that Russia was starting to move towards the border, most of the native Ukrainians sort of considered it normal,” Troy Stubbs said. “Russia, for decades, has been a little bit of an aggressor when they want something. The local people weren’t very alarmed; it was kind of an expected part of life.
“Now, as they got into the late Fall, Isaac did say that in some of the areas where he was, there were starting to be what he called parades, but they were military in theme. He said it felt more like a patriotic, nationalist-type activity. The parade had some military-type equipment. He didn’t feel like he was in danger. He just felt like these people are obviously getting motivated for something.”
According to Troy Stubbs, the LDS congregations in the area continue to meet through the pandemic, despite being “behind the curve” in receiving appropriate COVID measures. He also said that the locals were very conscious of the risks of COVID when using public transportation but said that the LDS, and other churches, were continuing to meet.
“He said it kind of felt like the South, in terms of people valuing and appreciating their freedom and their ability to make choices for themselves," Troy Stubbs said.
The LDS missionaries from Ukraine have stayed put, but all foreign missionaries have been reassigned to other locations.
“For Isaac, there is no chance he will go back because he only has four months remaining [on his mission],” Troy Stubbs said.
According to Troy Stubbs, his son is not shaken by the event. In fact, he is rather glad to have an exciting story to tell.
“You know, he’s like you would imagine a lot of 20-year-old guys,” Troy Stubbs said. “He’s like, ‘Man, this is going to be a great story one day. I can’t wait to tell my kids that I was there when all this was happening.’ He knew it was serious, but a lot of 20-year-olds think they’re invincible. But he has a great attitude about it, he is grateful to be back in the United States, and he jokingly talks about the food and the comforts that we enjoy here that he can now enjoy.”
Isaac Stubbs intends to finish out his mission in Chicago and subsequently attend Brigham Young University, where he plans to pursue a degree in Neuroscience.
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