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Virginians fear for family back home in Ukraine

Ukrainian in virginia
(Image: VPM News Focal Point)

According to the U.S. Census, there are 24,000 people of Ukranian descent living in Virginia. Alexandra Blagova is one resident following the war through updates from her family members. We also meet VCU Professor Alex Misiats who speaks on the phone to his mother in Ukraine as she struggles to survive the daily barrage of Russian attacks. VCU Political Science Professor Judyth Twigg, says Ukraine did nothing to provoke a war and that this is an act of aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many groups in Virginia are taking action to help Ukrainian refugees, including the Richmond office of the International Rescue Committee that is running a crisis campaign.



Alexandra Blagova: That's what I'm afraid of. The deaths will be more at home.

Keyris Manzanares: Alexandra Blagova hasn't been able to sleep since Russia invaded Ukraine. She remembers the exact moment she heard the news.

Blagova: My auntie from Kyiv, she called me. It was four in the morning and she said that there is a war started.

Manzanares: During this agonizing time, Blagova says she's become closer to her friends and family as they work to help people in Ukraine. Blagova says they feel survivors' guilt because while they are safe in the United States, their loved ones fear for their lives.

 Blagova: I'm feeling pain, helpless, 'cause all of my family members, friends, classmates, teammates are in Ukraine for the most part.

Manzanares: Alex Misiats, A Virginia Commonwealth University math professor, has been calling his mother six times a day. She lives in a city in central Ukraine.

Alex Misiats: They are killing people. They're killing civilians, women, and children. They're destroying houses.

Manzanares: Misiats says the Russian army is not showing strength by bombing civilians.

Misiats: They're showing their weakness. They're showing that they cannot do anything but destroy houses. They cannot destroy people's will.

Judy Twigg: And here it is again.

Manzanares: VCU political science professor Judy Twigg says Ukraine did nothing to provoke a war and that this is an act of aggression from Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

Twigg: We're now in the midst of this heavily armed conflict in which there are battles taking place simultaneously in Ukrainian rural villages, small cities. There's shelling happening now pretty much constantly in the large cities of Kharkiv to the east and the capital of Kyiv.

Manzanares: Blagova fears that if Ukraine doesn't receive support, the violence will spread across Europe.

Blagova: Ukrainians right now, friends of mine, family members, they all fighting not only for Ukraine. They're fighting for entire world.

Manzanares: The war will make a global impact, including here in Virginia, says Professor Twigg.

Twigg: Russia is a major oil exporter. Those oil supplies have been disrupted. We're already seeing oil approaching, if not over a hundred dollars a barrel, we'll start to see that at the gas pumps sooner rather than later.

Manzanares: How can Virginians best support the people of Ukraine right now?

Blagova: I would like people to understand that it's real. There's blood, there's a war. There's children dying.

Manzanares: Professor Twigg says Virginians need to be:

Twigg: Thinking about what Ukraine represents to our democracy and our way of life.