Nataliia Baker has come a long way to get to where she is today – long as in 6,300 miles, because that is the distance between Ukraine and Arizona.

Born and raised in the war-torn city of Kyiv, Baker met her husband there and followed him to the United States in 2007, hoping for a new life. They settled in Phoenix, and though they have since divorced, she never left.

One word that best describes 36-year-old Baker is determined. She has overcome many hurdles as a single mother, yet none have deterred her from her goals.

“No matter where you put me, I am going to grow roots and be just fine,” Baker said. “I was born in the year of Chernobyl and had a pretty rough childhood growing up after that disaster.” 

She learned much from her parents, who she describes as “simple and hard-working blue-collar people.”

“I got most of my moral standing from my father and grandfather,” Baker said.

Since arriving in the U.S., Baker has fought a language barrier, yet it hasn’t held her back. She has immersed herself in work, eagerly pursuing the many available opportunities. She initially started a house cleaning business and then – after going through extensive training – became an EMT and firefighter. 

Baker’s background and passion for health and fitness led her to become a certified stretchologist. Recently she opened her own health studio, Stretch-Plus. She is also studying to earn an associate degree in business and, ultimately, a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

“My business is off to a nice start. Many of the clients are from Arcadia. It’s wonderful because I get to help make people’s lives better in healthy ways that last,” Baker said with unmistakable pride. 

Her passion for exercise comes naturally because when she was a little girl, she and her sister would work in the fields, plowing the hard ground and planting potatoes. 

“We tried to turn the hard work into a game of play,” she said.

Today her physical activity revolves around running. She ran her first marathon in 2018 and since then has completed two ultra-marathons, which are races that cover 52 miles. She carries a little cross to help her along the long grueling course. 

“It reminds me who’s really in charge,” she said.  

When not working, studying for the next exam, or training for another race, Baker enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is passionate about motherhood and relishes the opportunity to teach her 14-year-old daughter, Stefania.

“The best part about being a mom is passing things down to other generations about what I have experienced and learned,” said Baker, “both for my daughter and future grandkids.”

Her parents, along with an older sister and a niece and nephew, remain in Kyiv, and Baker’s unwavering plan is to bring them to the U.S. and out of harm’s way.

“I hope they make it through the war and come out unharmed. The worst part of the ordeal is to hear what is happening and know there is nothing I can do,” she said. 

In the meantime, Baker plans to continue her college education and remain optimistic about the future.

“A good life is about moving forward and never looking back,” she said.