I think of myself as a Ukrainian American—completely one and fully the other. I was born and lived for 13 years of my life in Lugansk, Ukraine. My family is from there and I had a great childhood in that nation. Then we moved to Tyler, Texas. And I grew up to be a very patriotic American here, and in large part, that was thanks to Texans’ love for their country. Here I learned of the freedoms and rights Americans have to pursue their own happiness, and that of their families, in safety. And I learned about economic opportunity.
Today I am heartbroken, and I use the term to its highest meaning. This heartbreak began in 2014 when occupation began. My freedom to visit home was stolen and any chance to visit my father’s grave was taken away. Why? Because the occupier was “protecting” its population in the east of Ukraine from this “horrible Ukrainian influence.” That was a complete lie, of course, like leftover Soviet propaganda. “Putler” (as Ukrainians and most of that part of the world refer to him) said that the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century was the dissolution if the Soviet Union.
Yet when the occupation was launched in 2014, the world did not react. My new home, the United States, that beacon of freedom, did not react. So for eight years my hometown of Lugansk was shelled by the occupiers. My heartbreak, however, is nothing compared to those having to comfort their children in bomb shelters. My daughter was born in 2015; that means her whole life in my birth city would have been in a war zone, had I not left. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Today, they are destroying Ukraine and wiping it off the face of the earth. Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, baptized Eastern Europe in the Christian faith. Its culture began to grow and evolve. Moscow did not exist. For two centuries, Christianity, literacy and tradition thrived in Ukraine. Moscow still did not exist.
Today, Ukraine truly is the breadbasket of Europe with its rich soil and vast fields of wheat. It could feed the entire continent of Europe. The nation now attacking it cannot. Eastern Ukraine has enough natural gas to supply all of Europe. And that’s really what this conflict is about: energy—and power.
When the Soviet Union fell apart, Ukraine held the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Europe, the U.S. and Ukraine signed the Budapest Agreement, in which Ukraine would voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons, with the assurance that its territory would be protected against any possible future invasions. Where is our protection now?
The past 72 hours have been horrific for Ukrainian families—including those living abroad. Many residential buildings have been destroyed; an orphanage outside of Kyiv was bombed. It housed 50 children. I’ve seen images of newborn ICU babies being carried to a bomb shelter. Yet the world is silent, even as a country with limited military resources must defend itself. But how can it?
President Vladimir Putin has committed crimes against humanity, and should be tried at the International Tribunal as a war criminal.
I ask you all to pray for Ukrainian people, most of all for Ukrainian children. I ask you to urge your representative to cut all financial ties with the aggressor—specifically, SWIFT, which would cut it off from international banking. I urge the closure of Ukrainian sky. I ask you to urge NATO to intervene. And I ask that U.S. citizens be allowed to bring their families from Ukraine to here.
God bless America, and Slava Ykraini!