Chance encounter in Ukraine brings two Salt Lake City men together

Mar 28, 2022, 5:06 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 5:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s something about a good coffee shop that leads to even better conversations. Maybe it’s the smell or the ambiance. Or maybe it’s just a comfortable, safe place to talk about anything.

Sergey Zasukha knows all about how important safety is.

That’s why he came to this Salt Lake City coffee shop.

He couldn’t thank his new friend, Rob Sturgill, enough.

“How can you not want to meet somebody who literally saved your sister and your sister’s life, you know?” he said.

The meeting Saturday evening was the first time these two men have met. However, they have spoken to each other before on the phone.

Sturgill and his team were recently in Lviv, Ukraine, to help Ukrainians in the middle of a war.

“We showed up there to deliver some supplies,” Sturgill said to Zasukha.

One day, Sturgill, who is from Salt Lake City, was bringing medical supplies to people when he met a woman and her daughter desperate for a ride to the border.

Russian soldiers were getting closer, and she wanted to escape.

Sturgill said yes.

“As we started to visit and she was getting into the van, she mentioned she has a brother in Salt Lake City, Utah, and, you know, really? So, as we’re driving down the road, basically I said, let’s call your brother.”

Her brother is Sergey Zasukha, and it was the first time these two Salt Lake City men spoke to each other.

“It’s probably a phone call I’ll never forget,” Sturgill said. “Just to let him know that, hey, I’ve got your sister in the car, and we’re going to take care of her. And so, it was kind of a tender, tender phone call between the two of us.”

(Adam Sotelo/KSL TV) (Adam Sotelo/KSL TV) (Adam Sotelo/KSL TV) (Adam Sotelo/KSL TV)

Zasukha’s sister and niece are now safely across the border.

A few days later, Lviv was attacked and bombed by the Russian military.

“You changed the direction of somebody else’s whole generation,” Zasukha told Sturgill at the coffee shop.

“It’s very grateful to be able to be there, to be there at the right time,” Sturgill said back to him.

Coffee shops have always been places where friendships grow, and it looks like this one is going to last.

“We’ll be friends the rest of our lives because our paths have crossed,” Sturgill said.

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Chance encounter in Ukraine brings two Salt Lake City men together