Ukrainian love story: refugee finds love with American boy

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-Mary Laguta is one of the only Ukrainian refugees in Bowling Green. And she’s found more than just a safe space here…

“I lived in Ukraine for maybe 23-24 years,” said Laguta. 

Laguta had lived in Ukraine her entire life before doing an abroad program in Italy. Then the war started…her entire family was still in Ukraine. 

“My family remains in Ukraine. But they are safe and their house is safe. But there is a lot of turning of electricity and water and heat too,” said Laguta. 

While in Italy, she had used a website to communicate with other Russian speaking Christians. On the site she connected with Mark Yager, who is from Bowling Green but living in Russia to teach English. 

“Mary and I would actually language exchange. I would talk in Russian for half the time and English for half the time,” said Yager. 

After messaging for months, they decided to meet each other in Italy. they instantly felt a connection. 

“I met Mark for the first time in real life in Italy,” said Laguta. 

As her schooling wrapped up, she would have to return to her home country.

“I planned to return and then the war started on the 24th of February and we didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t return,” said Laguta. 

Worried for her safety if she would return to Ukraine after her schooling, Mark told Mary she could come to the United States and live with him in Bowling Green. 

“Mary bought a picture book showing different images of Ukraine and gave it to my parents,” said Yager. 

They realized their feelings for each other had grown stronger than a friendship

“They asked,” Are you guys a couple and we were like what to say! We were like we are friends and then we spoke, and are like maybe we are a couple,” laughed Laguta. 

Mark and Mary are ready to take that next step together and are now planning a February wedding.