Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Local Ukrainians Watch, Worry and Support Friends and Family Back Home

“Everybody ask me, how they are, are they safe, did you talk to them? And I say, yes, but that was two hours ago, I don’t know what happens in two hours, are they still alive?”

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Talk to any Ukrainian in South Florida these days, and you will be talking to someone consumed by worrying, sadness and disbelief.

“I never thought I had to experience war, I have to worry about my family, my close friends, to be killed at any moment,” said Yuliya Zhdanovych, who moved to the United States seven years ago. “Everybody ask me, how they are, are they safe, did you talk to them? And I say, yes, but that was two hours ago, I don’t know what happens in two hours, are they still alive?”

Zhdanovych’s brother and sister-in-law are in Kyiv, seeing the war first-hand. She says they volunteer every day, helping in any way they can, knowing they could be called up to military duty soon.

“He doesn’t want to leave because it’s his land, it’s his home and his wife refuse to leave him either. She told him, if we have to die, we gonna die together,” Zhdanovych said. “They not gonna surrender, they not gonna step away, they not gonna leave their country, they gonna fight as much as possible. They want to be free country.”

Jan Kosto has lived in the United States since 2009, but says his entire family is in Ukraine.

“All my inner circle, they are there, and they all doctors,” Kosto said.

Kosto’s parents, he says work in a military hospital near Dnipro, which has received heavy shelling.

“They work like 16 hour days, every day in the hospital. My mom is a heart doctor, my dad is physician, so they both there every day and I just pray that they survive,” Kosto explained. “I was begging my dad, who over 65, stop, you are not have to do this, but that’s his duty. Same as my mom, they said we will be here until the last breath.”

During our interview, Kosto called his friend Yevgeni, who is in the city of Zaporizhzhia.

“He cannot understand why someone else from a country, which all of us have some family and relatives and a lot of friends, bombing the city, killing innocent people,” Kosto said.

Yevgeny described the miserable conditions there and said people need food, diapers, and baby formula. Jan has been sending money directly to people there so they can buy supplies. He widened his effort today by establishing a GoFundMe account in his name.

Yevgeny also said that a friend of theirs had been killed.

“He couldn’t talk, he cry, his friend killed. The city there, we call like, do you have food? We don’t have food. Do you have diapers? I have two kids, I don’t have diapers; like money coming, help coming, but when the help come to those people?” Kosto asked, holding back tears and illustrating the problem of getting crucially needed supplies to people in a war zone.

Jan also told us in his group chat of 25 friends, five were no longer responding. They are soldiers and he presumes they’ve been killed in action.

“Me and my friend from London, we try to say, guys, if anything happen, we will support your families. A lot of them have wives, little kids, older parents, and the last thing I want these guys thinking, if I’m dead, who will support these people?” Kosto said.

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