With Orphans in the Midst of Adoption Stuck in Ukraine, One U.S. Family Fights to Bring Their Child Home

Trent and Muff Hartsfield from Alabama said they felt "helpless" as their adoption paperwork fell to a halt amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine

A group of Ukrainian orphans is in a race against time as they attempt to escape the ongoing Russian invasion.

Trent and Muff Hartsfield, of Alabama, are among the families eagerly awaiting the children's arrival in the United States.

"Our chance to get her out is now or never," Muff said alongside her husband on Friday's episode of PEOPLE (The TV Show!).

The couple fell in love with a Ukrainian orphan named Angelina, who Trent said entered the foster system after her parents' "tragic deaths," while hosting her through Bridges of Faith in December 2021.

The Hartsfields wasted no time attempting to adopt Angelina upon her return to Ukraine in mid-January. However, the adoption papers were being processed when Russia invaded Ukraine, according to Trent.

"We feel helpless," Trent added. "We're over here and she's clear across the world. What do we do?"

With Orphans in Midst of Adoption Stuck in Ukraine, One U.S. Family Fights to Bring Their Child Home

Among the Hartsfields' concerns is Russia's ban on American adoptions. "If there is a government put up into the Ukrainian government, the idea that we can get to her goes almost to none," Muff explained.

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Angelina is one of several children attempting to reach the Romanian border with hopes of getting an American refugee visa. The young girl was deemed safe as of a few days ago and recently got through to Trent with a messaging app.

"She called me and my heart's just jumping," Trent said, adding that she was "sweet as can be and calm" during their call. After asking her "Are you okay?" multiple times, Angelina responded with a sweet "Hi Trent" while giving him a thumbs up and a smile on camera.

With Orphans in Midst of Adoption Stuck in Ukraine, One U.S. Family Fights to Bring Their Child Home

"To be able to know she's okay and kind of communicate a little bit is really helping," Trent added.

Dr. Christopher Jahraus, a radiation oncologist in Alabaster, Ala., is facing a similar predicament. Last week, he told PEOPLE about his desperate attempts to bring 9-year-old Sashko, whom he met through Bridges of Faith, to the U.S. as fast as possible.

"I want nothing more than to get Sashko to the United States where I can help him claim asylum," Jahraus said. "This is a crisis. This is not about sanctions and political maneuverings. This is about little kids. It kills me to think that these little kids could fall under Russian rulers."

Dr. Tom Benz, founder and president of Bridges of Faith international, is helping the children fleeing Ukraine amid the ongoing violence as locations frequented by children remain under attack.

"We've seen orphanages bombed, we've seen schools bombed. It's a horrifying, unbelievable scenario," Benz said on Friday's episode of PEOPLE (The TV Show!). "I feel like we're living in the '30s with the march of the Nazis."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. More than a million Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With Orphans in Midst of Adoption Stuck in Ukraine, One U.S. Family Fights to Bring Their Child Home

Benz told PEOPLE that "the trip across Ukraine is difficult" as key pieces of infrastructure remain under attack while civilians attempt to escape.

"Some of the kids are on the east side of the Dnieper River, [so] we have to find a bridge," he explained, adding that "not all of the bridges are still up."

Though the Hartsfields are eager for Angelina to find safety, they are also concerned about the dangers she and the other refugees face on their journey.

"We're trying to get kids out. We're trying to make decisions," Trent said before pondering, "Is this right? Do we put kids in a moving vehicle while things are going on?"

However, Benz believes the kids deserve better. "Children should not have to live with the backdrop … of artillery, cruise missles, [and] bombs," he said.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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