Ukrainian officials report missile attacks in Kyiv
PARMA, Ohio — Ukrainian Americans, watching the Russian attack on their homeland with horror and anger on Thursday, described Ukraine as vulnerable and helpless — but also as a country with the same aspirations as the United States.
“Americans need to realize that this is about freedom and being able to live their lives the way they want, to govern the way they want, and not be subject to the power of a dictator’s ego,” he said. said the Very Reverend John Nakonachny. , 75, pastor of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland with a large Ukrainian population.
“Wouldn’t Americans care about what’s going on in Ukraine? He asked.
Peter Teluk, 55, worked in Ukraine for 25 years as a consultant for US business interests and returned to the United States last year. He urged Americans not to turn a blind eye to the conflict.
“The United States has a short attention span and is less willing to think about foreign conflicts these days,” said Mr. Teluk, a Cleveland-area attorney. But he said the United States should understand that Ukraine was “symbolically what we want the rest of the world to be – a country that wants to define what it is for itself.”
“We should understand that,” he continued, “because that’s what we’ve always believed.”
Taras Szmagala Jr., chairman of the board and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University Foundation, said Russian President Vladimir V. Putin was threatened by the growing independent voice of middle-class Ukrainians. Russians, he said, are hearing these voices and seeing what a democracy can do for them.
“Ukrainians are maturing as a society and they’re getting better over time, and that’s a threat to Putin,” he said. “Americans and the media need to see that side of things.”
Across the country, Ukrainian immigrants said they felt a deep sense of helplessness hearing from panicked parents who felt trapped as much of their homeland was turned into a war zone.
“I haven’t slept all night. I spoke to my brother and my sister. They are so scared,” said Tanya Vlasenko, 48, of Vancouver, Wash. “We can’t do anything, only pray,” she said, crying.
Vancouver and nearby Portland, Oregon are home to more than 20,000 Christian Slavs. Most of them are Ukrainians who began settling in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s as refugees, after fleeing religious persecution. They have erected dozens of churches which are the center of community life.
At the First Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church, where Ms Vlasenko’s family prays, the pastor has been leading worshipers in prayer since Russian military action in Ukraine became a possibility.
Salah Ansary, senior district manager for Lutheran Community Services Northwest, a refugee resettlement agency, said anxious Ukrainian immigrants had called asking how they could get their loved ones out of the country.
“We don’t have good information to provide, or anything to offer that can comfort them at this time,” he said. “The situation is so fluid.”
Solomia Gura, 31, of Philadelphia, said it has become increasingly difficult to reach people in her home country who have taken refuge in bunkers.
“I’m trying to check if everyone is alive, if no bombs hit them,” said Ms Gura, whose mother and brother live outside the western city of Lviv. Ukraine which had not been spared by the Russian military incursion.
Ms. Gura said she planned to attend a rally for Ukraine on Friday in Philadelphia, where about 70,000 Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans live.
“That’s all we can do is show our support,” Ms Gura said, her voice heavy with exhaustion and tears.
Irena Mykyta, 60, an immigration lawyer in New York, said that, like her relatives and friends in Ukraine, she was in disbelief that her home country was under attack.
“I feel useless and guilty for being a Ukrainian here,” said Ms. Mykyta, who has lived in the United States for 26 years and is a naturalized citizen. “Ukraine is powerless and we are powerless here.”