'I feared for my life': Missing woman found safe shares her story
Tatyana Ionashku, 23, was headed to Delta Junction to visit family on June 30, but never made it to their home.
Early Saturday morning, she drove into a parked car outside a home near the intersection of Souhrada and Remmington Roads, according to Alaska State Troopers. When the owner came out to see what happened, she took her shoes off and ran away, leaving behind her purse and her car.
"I have insurance, I was not intoxicated," Ionashku said. "I ran away from the owner of the vehicle because it was very late, I was alone, young and he was extremely angry."
She said the man became very violent and angry. She felt threatened and feared for her safety.
"I was scared to be with him," Ionashku said. "He said he called the cops and that they would take a long time to respond and come to the scene. I got so scared and immediately started crying. I didn't want to stay there that long with him."
She said her fight or flight instincts kicked in when the man entered her car.
"That's when I took my heels off and started running," Ionashku said. "I feared for my life. I tried to cooperate with him at the scene for about a half hour but when he came in my car, that was not okay with me. It was not okay with me."
She said she was traumatized with fear, shocked from the car accident and tired. She ran barefoot as fast and as far as she could until she collapsed from exhaustion.
"I woke up in the woods," Ionashku said. "I had no idea where I was or how far I ran. I woke up and didn't have my phone and I was super cold, I had no shoes."
Ionashku said she didn't know where to go or what to do once she woke up. She didn't know if she was being followed by the car owner so she decided to follow what she called an animal trail in the woods. The trail led her to an abandoned house.
"The door was halfway open," she said. "I walked around it and scouted it out. It seemed safe for the moment, and I went inside. It was still early morning and I fell back asleep. I thought that after what had happened that people would be searching for me so I just stayed there."
While at the house, Ionashku said she found some blankets -- one of them a military blanket -- a pocketknife, some old shoes and some matches. She also found some water but it wasn't very good.
"I didn't know where I was or how far I ran," she said. "I didn't know if I should stay in the house or move on. After I found the items in the house, I decided that I could continue hiking. I was in survival mode."
Ionashku continued to hike trying to find someone that could help her in the woods. At night she would start small fires to get warm and shiver under her blankets.
"I was afraid to make a big fire," Ionashku said. "I didn't want it to get out of control and I didn't know if the car owner was still trying to find me. I think I was still a little traumatized. At night under the blankets, I could hear animals walking around me. I could hear them sniffing me. I don't know what they were because I was too scared to come out of the blanket."
After that night, she said she knew she was going to survive. She did have concerns about not eating for five days and a lack of water.
"I slept a lot during the day because it was warm," Ionashku said. "At night I stayed up because it was so cold and it's just scary."
Eventually, as Ionashku walked, she saw fireworks overhead near the Gerstle River. She then walked over to where she thought the fireworks were being launched.
"I knew there were campers around and I said, 'this is my chance,'" Ionashku said. "I was nervous and scared because I knew once I met people, I didn't know what they would do. I eventually came upon Kurt Smith and his family launching fireworks and making s'mores at the fire. I gave them a wave and they nodded back to me. They seemed approachable."
As she approached the Smith family, she apologized for the intrusion and asked if she could use their phone to call her brother. However, the phone had no service.
"Kurt said, your brother doesn't know you're here?" Ionshku said. "You don't have a car?"
Smith didn't allow Ionashku to answer before asking if she was the missing person.
"I said, 'maybe?' I told him my name and he said, 'yes, yes you are.'" Ionashku said.
Smith asked her to sit around the fire with him and his family and then he would take her home.
According to the Alaska State Troopers online dispatch, Ionashku was found safe and with family around 3:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 5 with her condition described as hypothermic.
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