WNYers check in with family and friends in Ukraine as the crisis with Russian continues

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Nicolette Thompson remembers her visit to Ukraine fondly.

“I had the opportunity to meet many of my cousins that are still in Liviv, a number of years ago when I was in my cousin’s wedding,” she said. “I was able to go with my grandfather. Absolutely a trip of a lifetime.”

Thompson’s family in Ukraine celebrating her cousin’s wedding in 2009

Thompson’s grandpa Jaroslaw Bilyj, arrived to the states from Ukraine in the late 1940s. She still has many family members in Ukraine and has been reaching out to them as much as she can.

“The entire community is devastated by what’s going on and my first thought yesterday was just to get in touch with everybody and find out if everybody is safe,” she said.

Thompson’s family lives in Lviv, and says they’re away from the action for now, but she’s worried that won’t always be the case.

“The fear is what will happen if Putin’s forces are able to really take over the entire country,” Thompson said. “I do think everyone is going to stay and they’re going to fight, it’s in the Ukrainian spirit. Always has been.”

Thompson’s grandfather outside his childhood church in a suburb of Lviv, Ukraine

Ukrainian-Americans say although it is a stressful time and they are concerned, they have a lot of pride in their homeland and how people there are standing up.

“There’s so much emotion, it’s all of it. It’s fear, it’s helplessness and then hopefulness,” said Ukrainian-American Dianna Derhak. “Also pride in how Ukrainians are handling this. It’s not all awful feelings.”

“I do think everyone is going to stay and they’re going to fight. It is in the Ukrainian spirit, always has been,” Thompson said. “The feeling even yesterday evening switched from one of sadness and grief and fear to one of action.”

Ukrainian Americans will be gathering at the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center on Genesee street at 1p.m. tomorrow to continue shining light on this crisis and to ask for community support.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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