LOCAL NEWS

Local Ukrainian-Americans scared for loved ones amid Russian invasion

Feb 22, 2022, 6:20 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2022, 6:25 am
Ukraine...
A TV screen in the Press Briefing Room of the White House airs Russian President Vladimir Putin's live remarks from the Kremlin. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ukraine may be more than 5,000 miles away from Seattle, but for the 100,000 Ukrainian-Americans in Washington state, the conflict hits close to home.

Those with relatives and friends still in Ukraine watched with horror as Russian President Vladimir Putin began moving troops into across the border.

“Most of us, whether we were born in Ukraine or born in the United States, have family in Ukraine,” said Lidia Mykytyn, a Seattle woman of Ukrainian heritage who volunteers with the Ukrainian Association of Washington. “And the news from the last two days has been devastating, disheartening.”

Congressman Adam Smith: U.S. won’t go to war with Russia over Ukraine

Mykytyn has relatives and friends in Ukraine, some living very close to the conflicted region. Before the last couple of days, she said they were largely going about their lives normally because they have been living with the Russian threat ever since Putin took Crimea in 2014.

“Until [Monday], everybody was living life, going to work, kids were going to school, people were going to theaters, to restaurants. … They were like, ‘We’re going to live our lives until there is a direct impact,'” Mykytyn said. “And yesterday and today is that direct impact.”

Now she is worried sick about her loved ones.

“I have messages out to them — I have not heard back,” Mykytyn said.

To the Ukrainian people, Russia moving troops into their country is equivalent to a declaration of war.

“We have just witnessed the start of the invasion, … it is definitely war,” Mykytyn said.

Mykytyn says the Ukrainian people are strong and will not take the invasion lying down. She said that the threat has unified the entire country.

“They are going to fight, they are going to defend themselves, they are going to defend their families, they are going to defend their country,” Mykytyn said.

She is worried not just about the violence, but also the economic devastation that the country is experiencing. She noted that commercial activity has ground to a halt in Ukraine, and airlines have stopped flights into the country. Mykytyn also fears that the conflict could spark a refugee crisis.

The Ukrainian-American community is asking anyone who wants to help to contact their Congress members and ask for more severe sanctions than the United States imposed when Putin invaded other territories in the past.

“Right now, our asks are those sanctions — make it quick, make it effective, make it severe. … Americans can turn to their members of Congress and say, ‘Hey, support democracy, support liberty in Ukraine, support them to survive this invasion,'” Mykytyn said.

The Ukrainian Association of Washington also plans to conduct fundraising drives for the people of Ukraine. There will be more information on this in the coming days, so keep an eye on the Ukrainian Association’s social media pages.

Follow Nicole Jennings on Twitter or email her here

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Local Ukrainian-Americans scared for loved ones amid Russian invasion