It’s been a sleepless night for many folks from Ukraine living here in Connecticut, as they watched the news of what’s happening overseas and called their loved ones back home.
“It is absolutely terrifying. I slept maybe five hours today,” said Volodymyr Gupan, who has been calling his mom in Ukraine every hour.
The UConn Ph.D candidate who moved from Ukraine in 2016 is watching the crisis unfold from afar as a concerned loved one and as a political scientist.
“We’re talking about modern, intellectual European nations where something like that hasn’t happened since 1945," Gupan said.
Also losing sleep, members of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in New Britain.
“Ukraine is a peaceful, neutral country and they did not expect anything like this to happen to our families,” said Nataliya Kyrychenko of Cromwell.
Terror doesn’t begin to express how she and her friends are feeling.
“All my family, all my friends, all my relatives are in Ukraine. They are scared, they are protected, but they are scared,” said Kateryna Skral-Blaga of New Britain, fighting back tears.
Those we spoke to have brothers, sisters and other loved ones living in fear there right now. Gupan reminds us that this war is not new, but this large-scale invasion is.
“We talk about it for eight years. Nobody hear us. We’re losing people,” said Kyrychenko. “And now the whole country under fire. This is terrifying."
And with fear for their families comes the sense of helplessness, too.
“It’s very sad because we are here and there’s not much we can do to protect our families. We can't help our families, but pray, send money to the army, and supplies, but that doesn’t help because we don’t know what’s going to happen or if it’s going to take a turn,” said Lyubomyra Ivasyuk of New Britain.
Kyrychenko said her best friend’s son just got a gun from the Ukrainian government to be prepared to protect where he lives in the western part of the country from Putin’s wrath.
We spoke to the 20-year-old over the phone, who said it’s very scary time.
“If we don’t do this now, he will continue to other countries,” he said adding, “My age, young people. We don’t know anything about war. It’s very hard for us.”
The Ukrainian church members we spoke to hope other countries step up more to help. In the meantime, they say Ukrainians won’t give in.
“We will die defending our country until our last breath and even if that means all the Ukrainians leaving the U.S. and fight the war, we will, but we will not give up, we will not surrender,” said Ivasyuk.
Gupan said Ukrainians are fighting for their culture, their language and themselves.
“Ukrainians are very similar to Americans in a sense that freedom is everything and we’re fighting for our freedom," he said.