New York City is home to more than 150,000 Ukrainians, the largest such community in the country, with pockets in Manhattan’s East Village and Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, and populations scattered across all five boroughs.
“New York City is home to the largest Ukrainian population in America, and our city stands with them and joins them in praying for those who find themselves under attack this morning,” Mayor Eric Adams said on Twitter. “The unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of their homeland is an attack on freedom.”
Outrage mixed with fear as Ukrainian-Americans took to the streets in their hundreds on Thursday, gathering in Times Square before marching through Midtown on their way to the Russian mission to the United Nations in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
“It’s awful, obviously,” said Ukrainian New Yorker Ian Kyrychenko. “We have all the families there, our loved ones, and right now they are trying to find a safe place.”
Authorities closed 67th Street outside the Russian mission and protesters were kept half a block away.
“My family has been bombarded right now as we speak,” Vera Tolkach said. “So every time I check my phone, I don’t know they’ll still be there.”
Jason Birchard is the third-generation Ukrainian owner of Veselka, a restaurant on Second Avenue.
“I’m a big, big believer in optimism,” he said. “I was a big fan of diplomacy. I thought this was all just a gesture, a posturing by Putin to pressure Ukraine into signing a NATO non-NATO deal. I’m extremely upset , I’m flabbergasted, I’m shocked, I’m angry, I’m sad, I have a very heavy heart. I mean, it’s not just, I think, an attack on Ukraine. It’s an attack on the world.”
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There is also a large Ukrainian population in Bound Brook, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States has roots in New Jersey.
Residents can only watch helplessly as they fear for their loved ones and their home country.
At a prayer vigil there on Thursday, the mood was somber – but their prayers called for strength after the war.
Members of the Ukrainian Metropolitan Council had more to pray for as shocking images of devastation and destruction poured in from the nation they love.
They have seen years of abuse in the past and swear to oppose Russian aggression.
“How many times must the Ukrainian nation suffer?” declared His Eminence Metropolitan Antoine. “How many times must it be laid down and buried and still rise from its ashes and rebuild itself?”
The group of Christians say war is wrong, but they call on the West to increase its supplies of military aid to protect the Ukrainian people when needed.
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“The Russians are attacking without any consideration for the places where people reside,” Bishop Daniel Zelinsky said. “If only they attacked strategic locations, that would be a story. But now they are impacting where people live.”
They say America must lead the way in stopping Vladimir Putin because he is bringing the European continent closer to World War III.
“I can’t reconcile in my mind that in the 21st century in the middle of Europe you’ll have someone behaving like that,” Zelinsky said.
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Meanwhile, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the state was “on heightened alert” against cyberattacks linked to Russia’s military advance in Ukraine.
“We are on heightened alert regarding cybersecurity and our own defenses,” she said. “Our hearts go out to the people who are under siege today.”
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