Minnesota mother's son detained by Russian forces while fleeing Ukraine
Tyler Jacob, 28, of Winona, was in the process of fleeing Ukraine with other foreigners when he was detained by Russian troops at a checkpoint in the Ukrainian region of Crimea on Sunday, March 13, 2022.
WINONA – Tina Hauser grips her phone every day wondering if she’ll receive the phone call that allows her first full night’s sleep in weeks.
The Winona mother is doing everything in her power to make sure her son, 28-year-old Tyler Jacob, is brought home safely after he was detained by the Russian military on Sunday, March 13, 2022, while he was fleeing Ukraine.
“I haven’t slept much. I don’t eat because my stress levels are through the roof. I’m clinging to my phone. I’m maybe getting two or three hours of sleep a night,” Hauser said. “I send my son a message every morning telling him that mom’s here, I love you, stay strong. I’m doing everything I can.”
Jacob grew up in Winona and graduated from Winona High School where he “loved” playing tennis and swimming in school while also being an avid hunter and a fisher. This past summer he met his wife online, who lives in Kherson, Ukraine.
Hauser said after months of the two talking and video-chatting online, he took a trip in December to visit her and they got married in January of this year and eventually had their daughter. Since Jacob is a native English speaker he became an English instructor in Kherson.
When the invasion of Ukraine began, Hauser said her son wasn’t initially worried about the impending war.
“He said, ‘Mom, even though the war has already started, everybody’s walking around like it’s nothing,” she said.
When the war started escalating, Jacob and his family fled to his in-law’s home in a nearby village. Jacob then started sending his mother videos of helicopters flying over the village and what the current situation looked like.
“It scared me even more because it was starting to really escalate right at that point,” Hauser said. “He then on Saturday gave me a call and I kind of felt like something was coming up.”
Jacob was calling to tell her on Saturday, March 12, 2022, that buses had arrived in the village to evacuate any foreigners out of the country. Jacob told her the buses wouldn’t take his wife and daughter since they were natives, and so he was the only one in his family allowed to evacuate.
“He said ‘I don’t want to leave, but I want to leave because if I stay I’m going to be stuck here till the end of the war,” Hauser said. “He goes, ‘It’s not going to be good. It’s not really good right now.’”
Hauser said Jacob's plan was to have his wife and daughter evacuated once he was out of the country and in a safe location, compared to his other option of them all staying in the village throughout the war.
The bus filled with foreigners like Jacob and was to end up in Turkey, but the bus first had to go through a Russian checkpoint in the Ukrainian region of Crimea. It was on Monday, March 14, 2022, that Jacob's wife texted Hauser that Jacob was detained by Russian troops in Crimea.
“All the people he was with were yelling, ‘Don’t take him, he needs to be with us, he’s supposed to be with us,’” Hauser said.
Hauser said she hasn’t heard from her son since. She has been in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, as well as Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office. She spoke with the senator on Wednesday and gave officials there all of Jacob's information.
Klobuchar gave the following statement regarding the situation.
“My heart goes out to Tyler’s family and we will do everything we can to locate him," Klobuchar said. "My office is working with the State Department and the embassy to find him and resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”
Hauser’s fiance also started a GoFundMe page to try to help provide funds to Jacob and his family.
Hauser said the amount of community support she’s received these past weeks has been “astronomical” and pushed her even more to find Jacob.
“I don’t know where I get the strength from. If I’m not praying, I got somebody here with me. I’ve got so many family and friends supporting us and having now the government in the senators that I’ve got on board on all of this,” Hauser said. “It’s just been overwhelming with the prayers and everybody giving us their hope and concern for everything. It’s just been astronomical. I think I’m striving off of all that to keep me going to find my son.”