TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – After finishing his contract with the Air Force in Texas, Tyler Watkins said he planned to join his wife Sasha in Ukraine while she waited for a new U.S. visa for a spouse.

“But then when the war started,” Sasha Watkins said, “everything changed and we had to come up with a completely new plan.”

They met four years ago while he was living in Largo and she was living in St. Petersburg on a work visa. After that expired, they said they had to marry overseas in December 2020 during the pandemic.

Sasha said she had her doubts about whether Russia would actually invade.

“Tyler said you need to get out of there because the longer you wait the harder it will be to leave Ukraine,” she said, recalling their conversation the day the invasion began in February.

The next day, she said she took a train from her hometown of Lviv in the western part of Ukraine to Warsaw, Poland.

“It was a major relief to me,” Tyler said, “but that wasn’t the end of it, so I really wanted her to be with me during this time.”

Tyler told News Channel 8 he contacted Congressman Charlie Crist’s office looking for help to speed up his wife’s visa application process.

“The folks at his office were more than helpful setting up the avenues to get it fast-tracked based on a humanitarian issue,” he said.

In late March, Tyler traveled to Poland to bring her the documentation she needed.

“Once we got everything processed into the embassy at Warsaw, she needed to have her birth certificate, social security card that she had when she came here for her work visa,” he explained.

After a long-distance start to their marriage, the couple says they are grateful to be back together.

“It just took us a pandemic and a war to get a visa for me,” Sasha said, “but yeah, it meant a lot I was able to finally travel and come here to visit Tyler’s family and start planning for the future.”

Tyler said if anyone else is in a similar situation with loved ones escaping Ukraine during the war, he strongly encourages them to call their member of Congress.