By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
The family of a Ukrainian girl missing from Gillette is asking for the public’s help in locating their adopted daughter.
Valeriia “Lera” Nudha, 15, left a note for parents Bethany and Nik Wight on Tuesday afternoon, saying that she had run away and would return when she was ready.
Because she’s been in the country for less than six months and speaks rudimentary English, the Wights are especially concerned for her safety. They also suspect that based on conversations with a friends of Lera’s that she is likely with an older teen or Russian-speaking man who she met online, according to Bethany.
“She’s very vulnerable and susceptible online,” Bethany said, noting that Lera, while living at a Ukrainian orphanage for four years before being adopted, had issues with potential trafficking situations.
“Someone has convinced her that her family life is not a good family life,” Bethany said. “She’s never experienced home life, and we’re very worried.”
The Wights hosted Lera through Host Orphans Worldwide, a nonprofit orphan hosting ministry, in 2020. Nik is a youth pastor at Calvary Community Church in Gillette.
The couple began the adoption process shortly after Lera returned to the Ukraine after her stay. The process was slowede as a result of the pandemic, though the Wights were finally able to bring her to Gillette last November. The family is also in the process of adopting another orphan from Ukraine.
Lera attended Campbell County High School this spring and studied English as a second language. While she had a small group of friends, she chose mostly to socialize online, Bethany said. Her Instagram page has 23,000 followers, which the Wights found concerning and tried to monitor.
“I should have taken away her phone away, but we wanted to trust her,” Bethany said. “It wasn’t enough and that’s really hard. It’s hard not to beat ourselves up over it.”
Lera has been reported as a runaway to the Gillette Police Department, which does not have any updates at this time.
She did not take her cell phone with her.
Lera is just over 5 feet tall and weighs approximately 110 pounds and has long dark hair and brown eyes. She has a small heart tattoo on her right ankle and a nose piercing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact GPD at (307) 682-5155.