Families of captured Americans freed in a Ukrainian prisoner exchange describe the moments they learned they were coming home.


Then they received unexpected phone calls.

“I have your son next to me,” Bunny Druek recalled a woman at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia telling him Wednesday. Drueke was reading a book to her grandson when the phone rang.

“‘Alex?’ and I heard him say, ‘Hi mom, it’s me, your favorite baby,'” Druek said as she tearfully recalled hearing her son for the first time since she caught him overseas.

“I’m free,” he told her.

Drueke and Huynh disappeared while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv on June 9. The two Alabama men had been held by Russian-backed forces for months before being released, along with five British nationals, as part of a prisoner swap. Saudi Arabia mediated between Russia and Ukraine.

The families did not know the prisoner exchange was in the works.

“My mind couldn’t get over it because there was no warning. It came out of nowhere,” the mother told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Huynh’s fiancee, Joy Black, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that she was also surprised when she received a call from Saudi Arabia while she was at work on Wednesday.

A US embassy official was on the phone, and he quickly put it over to Huynh.

“It was so amazing to finally hear her voice again and talk to her,” Black said. “I was still in shock, so I was like, ‘How do I know it’s really you?’ and he said this inside joke that we have with each other and I was immediately like, ‘It’s him. It’s really him.'”

Joy Black talks to CNN.

Finally ready to go home, her fiance ordered spaghetti and meatballs — a meal she’d craved since her time in Ukraine — as soon as she got back to Alabama, Black said, adding she expects it to arrive Friday.

“I told him we’ve been waiting for this call for so long, he said he’s been counting down the days. It’s great to know they’re okay and coming home,” Black added.

Druek said Alex is excited to return home as soon as he and Huynh are cleared by doctors to fly.

“I feel like I’m floating, I’m so happy,” Drueke’s mother said.

CNN’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.