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Delaware Valley Residents Horrified, Heartbroken Over Ukraine

Delaware Valley residents with ties to Ukraine are watching in horror as the Russian army rolls toward Kyiv.

Many came to a rally at City Hall in Philadelphia Friday to show their support for the beleaguered country.

At Manor College in Abington, founded 75 years ago by the Ukrainian Sisters of St. Basil the Great, students and staff held a Zoom service Friday to pray for Ukraine. Signs with the message “Pray for Peace in Ukraine” abound on campus.  Many students, alumni, and staff at the small college have relatives in Ukraine.

Nicholas Rudnytzky, the college’s dean of academic services, grew up in Philadelphia. His parents immigrated from Ukraine after World War II. He still has family in Lviv in the western part of Ukraine, which is “very far from the front lines.”

Nicolas Rudnytzky

“They’re fine,” he said about his relatives. “They’re mad. They’re angry. Like most of the country, they’re defiant.”

Asked if they intend to fight, Rudnytzky said they do but added, “the Russian war machine is ranked third in the world.”

While it is shocking that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army is invading Ukraine, in some ways, it is not, he said.

For one thing, the world did very little when Putin took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, he said. And Russia and the Soviet Union have a centuries-long history of oppressing the Ukrainians.

“A good contingent of the Ukrainian community was expecting this,” said Rudnytzky. “Moscow had repeatedly denied our existence. The czarist government of the past made our language illegal. In 1946, the Russian Orthodox Church liquidated the Ukrainian Catholic Church.” Clergy were exiled, leaders killed or sent to Siberia. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin created a deliberate famine in Ukraine in the 1930s that killed millions.

“They committed genocide against our people,” said Rudnytzky. “This is horrifying that in the 21st century, in Europe, such a thing could happen.”

He questioned the efficacy of the United Nations and NATO. If it were somewhere else and did not involve Russia, “we’d have U.N. peacekeeping troops.”

In the 1990s, the U.S., Great Britain, and Russia signed an agreement with Ukraine, saying they would protect it if it gave up its nuclear weapons, he noted.

“We promised we’d protect them. But when Russia took Crimea, everyone looked the other way.

“Now there is a huge contingent wondering whether China will take a lesson from Russia,” he said. “This is an attack on a democracy in Europe.”

Eugene Luciw

Eugene Luciw is also the son of Ukrainian immigrants. He is the president of the Philadelphia branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and director of external relations for the Ukrainian Sports Center and Ukrainian National Soccer Club in Horsham.

He agreed Putin was emboldened by the lackluster response to his theft of the Crimea.

“Mr. Putin takes to weakness like a shark takes to blood in the water,” Luciw said.

He has relatives and friends in Ukraine.

“Many of them are in bunkers, in subways,” he said. “My heart is there with them. In the modern world, people I had visiting in the United States are in bomb shelters and subways trying to stay alive.”

The attack is personal for Luciw.

Leonard Mazur

“I feel violated,” he said. And the world order is now changed where “a heavily militarized imperial power can simply take another country over.”

Leonard Mazur, a Manor College trustee and chairman of the college’s Ukrainian Community Committee, said his parents also fled Ukraine after World War II, and his mother had been in a German forced labor camp during the war.

“What’s happening here is a tragedy,” said Mazur, who is appalled that “the world is standing by, letting this happen. I don’t know how people, how governments that have any degree of morality can do that. It’s awful.”

Putin is taking over a country “under false pretenses,” he said. He urged people to talk to their representatives, senators, and the White House to put still stronger sanctions in place and that the U.S. arms Ukraine so its citizens can fight back.

“How do you just stand by and watch people get slaughtered?” he asked.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Putin and other top Russian officials on Friday.

A sign at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia.

And on the prayer front, Philadelphia Archbishop Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez w celebrated a Mass for the intention of peace in Ukraine, the Ukrainian People, and the Ukrainian community in Philadelphia this Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia was packed Sunday morning as people offered prayers for the war to end.

Tatayna Lylyk, a congregant, said, there are “a lot of reasons” for the war but the main one is Putin and “rich people who want power.”

Lylyk came to Philadelphia in 2002 from Kyiv when she was 36 but most of her family and many friends remain in Ukraine.  she is worried about them and fears for the future.

“It is prohibited to come out from “your” home,” she said. “There are saboteurs on the streets which want to help Putin  in this war. (But) people stay for their homeland.”

“Why (does Putin) need our Ukraine? I think he’s crazy. I think he’s scared in some way. He is wrong in his mind,” she said.



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KIRK: Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Recalls Soviet Rule Over East European ‘Satellites’

The descent of eastern Europe into war is like an excruciating movie in which you have to fear the worst.

You can’t believe that Russia’s Vladimir Putin would have marshaled all those forces within shooting distance of Ukraine without planning to use them. You know you have to accept the tragic news that people will be killing one another across a corner of the region that few of us could have spotted on a map until all TV networks began showing us where the Russians would strike.

Putin and his ministers and assorted flunkeys presented one distortion after another in what was described as a press conference in which they mouthed every rationale imaginable for going to war. The only relief came in the prospect of more dialogue as enunciated by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while Putin looked on silently like a master approving the carefully rehearsed words of his loyal servants.

It would be difficult to sort out all the nonsense they were talking about, but what sticks are repeated claims that the Ukraine forces, with the blessing of the 30 NATO nations led by the U.S., have been opening artillery and rifle fire across the line in the southeastern  Donbass region. The fact that this region was part of Ukraine until a few years ago is irrelevant. Now the Russians are saying it’s divided between two “people’s republics,” Donetsk and Luhansk, which should even be recognized as independent countries.

Putin gives the appearance of a beast of prey sizing up his next dinner before pouncing. It’s hard to know why he wants to conquer a nation where millions died under the control of the former Soviet Union in the 1930s, but obviously plain and simple nationalism underlies the whole crisis.

In that sense, Putin bears comparison to Xi Jinping in China and Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Xi’s burning ambition is to recover Taiwan, the island province that remained independent after the victory of Mao Zedong’s Red Army in 1949. Kim Jong-un, of course, would like to atone for the failure of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, to take over the south in the Korean War by uniting the Korean peninsula under his rule.

Both Xi and Kim would appear to have enough common sense not to risk wars in which millions would die. Xi cannot be sure the Americans and probably the Japanese would not rush to Taiwan’s defense, repelling his forces in the Formosa or Taiwan Straits, and Kim has to worry about the Americans, again with the backing of Japan, turning back invasion of the south. Better to test-fire missiles and fabricate nuclear devices, Kim seems to believe, than to take chances on a war in which his regime might not survive.

You have to hope Putin would also have that much common sense. The ultimate consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine could be a European or even another world war. The war might not reach those proportions right away, but expansion of the conflict would be likely when considering Russian ambitions.

It’s not just that the Russians piled up every pretext they could think of to cross the line into Ukraine. Bearing in mind that revenge and a return to the greatness of the Soviet Union in its finest hours would be a prime motive, Putin soon would want to recover other former satellites. They already have Belarus under dictator Alexander Lukashenko in their orbit, so much so that Russian troops have been training there above Ukraine’s northern frontier.

The Russians want more. How about Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? They’re ripe for the taking, on the Baltic, exposed to Russia with no other neighboring power to guarantee safety and permanent independence. Lithuania does share a brief common border with Poland, but Poland was divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union before those two evil tyrants went to war with one another in mid-1941. Poland, after the German surrender four years later, fell under Soviet rule.

We should look at the expansion of the Soviet Union to encompass eastern Europe, and much of Central Asia too, in terms of Russian nationalism rather than communism. Putin, by gnawing away at Ukraine, sees himself avenging the wrong of the breakup of the Soviet empire. Similarly, Kim Jong-un, as he threatens his enemies with nukes and missiles, dreams of some day leading a united Korea, avenging 35 years of Japanese colonial rule and the division of Korea by the U.S. and USSR after the Japanese surrender.

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