A Bucksport woman who has been missing since her home caught fire last week was found late Tuesday afternoon, ending an eight-day search.
Aza Jerome Vasylyk was discovered in Orland at 4:30 p.m. A worker at the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery found and detained her, Bucksport Deputy Police Chief David E. Winchester said.
Vasylyk, a 56-year-old Ukraine native, walked away from the fire at her Town Farm Road home on Nov. 11. Two hunters in Orland reported seeing her in the area of Great Pond Mountain near Fish Hatchery Road and called 911 on Monday morning, but a six-hour search failed to locate her.
Vasylyk’s stepdaughter, Samantha Bishop, described the news as a profound relief.
“Thank God. Thank God,” Bishop said.
Vasylyk was last seen in Bucksport walking on Route 15 near Kinney Drive headed toward downtown on Nov. 11 after the fire at the house she shares with her husband, Timothy Jerome, who is Bishop’s father. Investigators won’t know what caused the fire until they interview Vasylyk, said Sgt. Joel Davis of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Bishop and her father had been deeply worried about his wife since her disappearance. They visited the heavily damaged home every day following the fire in hopes of seeing her, Bishop said.
Bishop said she suspects that her stepmother was given a terrific shock by the fire. The situation has been “very traumatic emotionally.”
“The house needs some work. It is fixable,” Bishop said. “He has a lot of windows to replace, but it is still standing. The house is salvageable.”
Vasylyk’s return might mark the end of what has been a nightmare for Jerome and his family. Police arrested Jerome, 61, on the day of the fire on charges of refusing to submit and obstructing government administration.
Winchester said Jerome ignored orders from police and firefighters to stay out of the house, repeatedly trying to go back in once the fire was out.
Her father had no criminal intent, Bishop said. He was distraught.
“He was looking for her,” Bishop said. “He wanted to see for himself if she was inside.”
The incident sparked widespread speculation online, which angered and frustrated Bishop. She said she wished that people would have looked for her stepmother, or had sense enough to wait for Vasylyk to be found, rather than theorize publicly on social media.
“That’s one of the hard parts about what’s going on. Everyone is making speculation about the situation,” the 38-year-old Orland resident said. “Myself and the family, I think we are all on the same page that anything regarding the fire or damage to the house is irrelevant. We don’t care. Really.”
Finding Vasylyk was all that mattered, Bishop said.
Jerome and Vasylyk married six years ago after a lengthy online courtship. They have gotten along well, said Bishop, a part-time patient care attendant at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth.
Since coming to the U.S. from the Kiev region, where she is well known as a painter and sketch artist, Vasylyk has become fairly fluent in English — enough to work at the McDonald’s restaurant in Bucksport for several years and to teach cooking in the town’s adult education program. But she still speaks with a heavy accent, Bishop said.
Vasylyk is a gifted artist, and her oil paintings sell well in Kiev, Bishop said.
Vasylyk had some culture shock when she arrived in the U.S., but she has mostly adjusted to her new home, her stepdaughter said.
“She is an amazing woman and she is super intelligent. She can make anything grow, and she is a heck of a worker, she really is,” Bishop said. “I have never met a woman who worked harder.”