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‘There Is Magic About Him:’ A West Norriton Woman Recounts Meeting With Zelenskyy

West Norriton resident Vera Andryczyk called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress Wednesday morning “amazing.”

“It contained all the elements of the last three weeks,” Andryczyk said. “It was very, very moving…He made an impassioned plea…He’s a leader.”

Andryczyk came to America from Ukraine with her family in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II. She was seven years old when her family settled in Philadelphia.

“We were lucky to have a sponsoring family,” she said.

But now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she is distraught. Andryczyk has cousins and many friends in her native country. She and her husband, Roman Andryczyk, have traveled back to visit Ukraine and even own a condo in Lviv.

“It’s a beautiful town,” she said. “It’s very old and has beautiful architecture.” Many poets, artists, and writers live there, she said.

Ukraine became independent in December 1991 after the Soviet Union dissolved. Some 93 percent of voters approved independence in a referendum, she said.

“And so (Russian President Vladimir) Putin miscalculated,” Andryczyk explained. “He just didn’t understand. Once you open a window and get to inhale that fresh air (of freedom), they got a taste of it. Of course, there were challenges, but they started to prosper.”

But now Putin “comes with his vision of restoring the imperial, the Russian Empire,” she said. “Ukraine would play a subservient role. And of course, the people said, ‘No way.’”

She met her husband at a resort for Ukrainian Americans in the Catskills. She was a stay-at-home mom to her two children and an active community volunteer. Andryczyk also volunteered in Republican politics in Montgomery County and served as a committeewoman and vice-chair of the Montgomery County Women’s Leadership group.

It was her volunteer work that brought her face to face with Zelenskyy in September 2021. At the Ukraine House on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.  Zelenskyy gave her an award for volunteering, along with 15 other Ukrainian Americans who were honored.

“They brought us into this one room,” she said. Zelenskyy “was a little late. And when he walked in, he’s not a very tall person but there was something about him that commanded respect.”

“We were standing in a semi-circle…and I caught his attention. And his look was just so friendly and so sincere that I liked him immediately,” said Andryczyk.

“I can tell you, there is this magic about him,” she said. Before she met him, she wondered if he would be able to handle the job. Zelenskyy was a former comedian and entertainer before he got into politics. “But he projected calmness and leadership. He made a fantastic impression on us.”

And now, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world is praising Zelenskyy’s leadership and courage. He remained with his people to rally them against Russia when he could have fled the country.

“Congress gave him a standing ovation,” said Andryczyk. “But they did not sound like they’re going to do anything about the no-fly zone. They’re not going to go for that.”

But what Ukraine needs is to stop the Russians from bombing their cities and people from the sky, she noted.

“You feel so helpless when it comes from the sky,” said Andryczyk. “I think he should keep asking for (a no-fly zone).” And she thinks whatever the U.S. and NATO do to help Ukraine should be kept confidential so that Putin does not have “a blueprint.”

There are also nearly 2 million displaced people that need humanitarian aid, she said. Thousands have died or been grievously injured.

In areas that the Russians bombed, “they have no hospitals…no infrastructure,” she said.

When Putin annexed Crimea in 2008 with little pushback from the West, it was a precursor, she said.

“We knew this would happen,” she said. “If we had shown strength even going back to 2008, and when he invaded Georgia. And he took two provinces there. It was somebody else’s territory.”

Andryczyk, like many, fears Putin will not stop with conquering Ukraine but will move on to other countries.

“I speak from my heart,” she said. “I’ve been involved so long and it’s so painful to see this (destruction).”

But she added, “We are very, very pleased and thankful for the support.”

She praised President Joe Biden and Congress for their pledges of aid for Ukraine.

“They’ve done so much more than we truly expected,” said Andryczyk. “We’ve always felt Ukraine is the lynchpin and that Ukraine is fighting Europe’s war.”


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Local Officials React to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s Speech to Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used both his talents as a video performer — along with an actual video — to make a powerful case for America to do more to help his war-torn nation fight off its Russian invaders. And while most of his remarks were delivered in Ukrainian, he used language that resonated with average Americans.

“Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it,” Zelensky said. “Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, in battlefields, when innocent people were attacked, attacked from air.

“Our country experiences the same every day.”

Zelensky also mentioned Mount Rushmore, America’s sacrifices on behalf of democracy abroad, and even the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have a need. I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same, the same you feel when you hear the words, ‘I have a dream.'”

Wednesday afternoon President Joe Biden signed a bill to send $800 million worth of military equipment and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, saying, “We’re going to continue to have their backs.” However, Biden did not act on Zelenskyy’s request for a no-fly zone.

Local legislators reacted with alacrity.

“This morning, President Zelenskyy delivered a powerful and sobering address not only to the U.S. Congress but also to all Americans who value peace and democracy around the world,” said Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks). “Many lines struck me, but he pierced the entire room when he said: ‘I see no sense in life, if I cannot stop the deaths,’ referring to all of the innocent children who have died. He also asked us to ‘do more.’ We must all ask ourselves how long we can delay providing the aircraft and weapon systems Ukrainians have asked for and need to defend their sovereign nation. I say we cannot delay one moment longer. In this historic moment, we must stand up for freedom and democracy around the world.”

Houlahan, however, does not support American boots on the ground or the imposition of a no-fly zone.

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-Delaware) issued the following statement after Zelenskyy spoke: “This morning, President Zelenskyy reminded us: ‘Ukraine is not fighting just for Ukraine.’ His nation’s battle is a pivotal fight for freedom and democracy, not just in Ukraine but around the world. We must remain clear-eyed about the fact that a tyrant like Vladimir Putin will continue his quest for power until he is stopped. I am incredibly grateful to President Zelenskyy for speaking candidly with me and my colleagues about the situation on the ground in Ukraine during this dark time for his country and the world.

“I stand in awe of the courage and passion displayed by President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people as they fight to defend their homeland and democracy from Putin’s unprovoked, illegal war. Their resolve in the face of Putin’s evil acts will go down in history.

“This morning, President Zelenskyy called for more humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, as well as increased economic pressure on Russia, and I expect the United States will respond to that call. The U.S. Congress and Biden administration are united in our determination to provide every feasible measure of humanitarian and military aid possible to the Ukrainian people until Putin ceases his unlawful attack on this sovereign nation. I believe it is crucial for the U.S. to rely upon advice from our military and foreign policy experts as we determine the best course to further support Ukraine.”

Likewise, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) favors more aid for war-ravaged Ukraine.

“President Zelenskyy’s address before Congress today was incredibly powerful and moving. What the world is witnessing is a modern-day Winston Churchill laying down his life for his country and honorably leading his people through a brutal and senseless war in defense of independence, peace, and democracy. President Zelenskyy undoubtedly exemplifies everything a leader should be and has continued to inspire the entire world.

“Equally, the United States must meet this moment with strength, unity, and leadership and immediately fulfill the requests of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people. I continue to call on the Administration to deliver additional humanitarian aid and critical lethal defensive equipment to Ukraine, specifically military aircraft and air defense systems, so the Ukrainians can defend their skies.

“This should include approving the transfer of Polish MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The U.S. and NATO must continue to do everything in our power to firmly stand behind the people of Ukraine by supporting a humanitarian no-fly zone to give Ukrainians a fighting chance to save their innocent civilians. It is no secret that weakness invites aggression. Now is the time to send a message to murderous war criminal Vladimir Putin regarding what the United States intends to do to back our ally and friend Ukraine, rather than telling our enemy what we won’t do.”

And Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said, “President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people’s bravery and resolve has shown the world that Ukraine will do everything they can to stand up to Putin. But today, President Zelenskyy once again made clear that the Ukrainian people need our help, including by ensuring ‘the Russians do not receive a single penny’ to fund the killing of Ukrainians.

“America can lead the rest of the world in answering Zelenskyy’s call by imposing secondary sanctions on the entirety of Russia’s financial sector. These sanctions would effectively prohibit foreign banks anywhere in the world, under the threat of U.S. sanctions, from making payments to Russian banks, including for oil and gas. Stopping these funds from flowing to Putin’s war machine is a critical lifeline for the Ukrainian people.

“The American people stand with Ukraine, and we must help them as they heroically fight for their lives,” said Toomey.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) tweeted this: “President Zelenskyy’s address to Congress this morning was deeply moving and very clear about what Ukraine needs.

We must do all we can to support Ukrainians in the fight to protect their democracy. Slava Ukraini.”

Sen. Bob Casey also sent a tweet: “I just watched @ZelenskyyUa’s address to Congress. He spoke clearly and eloquently about Putin’s brutality and outlined the support he needs from the world. The United States stands by the Ukrainian people and we will work with our allies to support their needs.”


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Fitzpatrick, Houlahan Appear on Fox News to Promote Support for Ukraine

Democrat Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick are on opposite sides of the partisan aisle, but they are in full agreement when it comes to Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: Give them what they need.

That was the message of the two Delaware Valley members of Congress when they appeared on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning in advance of Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress.

“We should give Zelenskyy what he’s asking for,” Fitzpatrick said.

Houlahan said it is the job of Congress to “ask questions and push for answers” from the White House when it comes to providing material support to Ukraine. “The administration is where the buck stops.”

Fitzpatrick was more direct in his criticism of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy, particularly its refusal to participate in the transfer of MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland to the embattled nation’s military.

“It’s inconsistent to say on the one hand, ‘They [the Ukrainians] don’t need them,’ and on the other hand to say, ‘It’s provocative for us to give them,'” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t understand the distinction between lethal equipment like Javelins and Stinger missiles being driven across the border… It’s a distinction without a difference. We should give Zelenskyy what he’s asking for, which is the ability to knock these missiles that are causing such incredible devastation out of the sky.”

In his speech to Congress later that morning, Zelenskyy renewed his request for the fighter jets, as well as his call for western nations to impose a no-fly zone in the skies over Ukraine.

“I have a need. I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same… when you hear the words, ‘I have a dream,'” he said.

“Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories on battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, yes, just like no one else expected it, you could not stop it. Our country experiences the same thing every day, right now at this moment, every night for three weeks now various Ukrainian cities — Mariupol and Kharkiv — Russia has turned the Ukrainian skies into a source of death for thousands of people,” Zelenskyy said.

Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support Ukraine, with 59 percent saying they would even support America imposing a no-fly zone.

Few in Congress or the White House are prepared to take that step, however, and neither representative gave the idea their support.

“I hope we will continue to be as creative in our solutions as possible,” Houlahan said. “They are in a fight for their lives and we should be as helpful as we possibly can.”

Both members are also in agreement on extending sanctions to Chinese banks as well, as part of the pushback against Russia. “I think that our partnership with China will still allow us to maintain the cooperation that we have achieved, and not only maintain, but also increase it in an environment where Western markets are closing,” Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Sunday. There are also reports Russia asked China for armed drones on the eve of its invasion of Ukraine.

“We need to keep China on the sidelines as much as possible,” Houlahan said. She also expressed disappointment over news India may take up a Russian offer to buy crude oil and other commodities at a discount.

“I’m frankly confounded by India and this particular set of circumstances, and their movements right now have been a little bit perplexing, to be honest,” she said.

Fitzpatrick recently traveled to the Ukraine border and he described the conditions there as “heartbreaking.”

“Watching the men staying behind to fight for their country saying goodbye to their spouses, their wives, their moms, their daughters — it’s one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen.”

Houlahan’s father was born in Lviv when it was part of Poland, “So certainly it’s personal to me. And it should be, frankly, personal to all of us. Because it’s reflective of 1939 and that should concern all of is,” she said.

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