Ukrainian-Americans in New York's "Little Ukraine" and "Little Odessa" neighborhoods speak out

Ukrainian-Americans in New York’s “Little Ukraine” and “Little Odessa” neighborhoods speak out

Ukrainian-Americans in New York are desperate to connect with their loved ones abroad as Vladimir Putin’s Russian army invades their home country.

More than 150,000 Ukrainians live in New York, the largest concentration in the country, and most of them are now protesting against the deadly occupation.

The largest concentrations of Ukrainians are in Manhattan’s East Village, an area known as the Ukrainian Village or Little Ukraine, and Brighton Beach, where so many former Soviet citizens emigrated that the city was nicknamed Little Odessa, after the Ukrainian city on the Black Sea.

The neighborhood saw an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe after World War II and then experienced a new wave in the mid-1970s when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

On Thursday, visited Brighton Beach, a coastal community in the southernmost part of Brooklyn, where the boardwalk and shops were in turmoil as residents fixated on disturbing images from Ukraine.

They told in a noisy commercial that they were worried about the consequences of the Russian invasion, the possibility of World War III, and their families and friends stuck in Ukraine.

The largest concentrations of Ukrainians in the United States are in the East Village in Manhattan, an area known as the Ukrainian Village or Little Ukraine, and Brighton Beach, where so many former Soviet immigrants emigrated that it was nicknamed Little Odessa, after the Ukrainian city on Black Sea

The largest concentrations of Ukrainians in the United States are in the East Village in Manhattan, an area known as the Ukrainian Village or Little Ukraine, and Brighton Beach, where so many former Soviet immigrants emigrated that it was nicknamed Little Odessa, after the Ukrainian city on Black Sea

St. George's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lower East Manhattan has a sign on the church's front door that reads

St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lower East Manhattan has a sign on the church’s front door that reads “Pray for Ukraine.”

On Thursday,  visited Brighton Beach, a coastal community in the southernmost part of Brooklyn, where the boardwalk and shops were in turmoil as residents fixated on disturbing images from Ukraine.

On Thursday, visited Brighton Beach, a coastal community in the southernmost part of Brooklyn, where the boardwalk and shops were in turmoil as residents fixated on disturbing images from Ukraine.

A Russian man on the street reads about Ukrainians and Russians in their war in a newspaper in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

A Russian man on the street reads about Ukrainians and Russians in their war in a newspaper in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

The Ukrainian village in Manhattan experienced an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe after World War II, and then experienced a new wave in the mid-1970s, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

The Ukrainian village in Manhattan experienced an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe after World War II, and then experienced a new wave in the mid-1970s, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church of St. George is located in the lower eastern part of Manhattan in the area known as the Ukrainian Village or Little Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church of St. George is located in the lower eastern part of Manhattan in the area known as the Ukrainian Village or Little Ukraine.

Robert Bederoff

As Russia wages war in his homeland, truck driver Robert Bederoff hoisted his Ukrainian flag on the back of his Jeep Gladiator pickup truck at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, intending to drive the caravan to Manhattan.

Bederoff told on Thursday that he feels the need to express his pride and concern for relatives who face a military onslaught nearly 5,000 miles away.

“I raised my flag in support of all the innocent people of Ukraine,” Bederoff said. “Now I watch YouTube, watch as many videos as I can and see rockets exploding everywhere. People are afraid for their lives, hiding at train stations and in bunkers in the same clothes on their backs. It’s very sad to know that we can’t help. What else can we do but wait and pray and hope.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re trying to do everything we can to keep as many people, friends and families as possible safe from all this madness,” Bederoff said, waving a flag at the back of his truck. “They don’t want to come here. They want to stay in their homeland. But since it all started, maybe it will change their minds. We can help them with housing and clothing. But, after all, how can we get them from there to here?

Robert Bederoff has a US flag and a Ukrainian flag on his truck as he is interviewed by  about the Ukrainian-Russian war as he speaks in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

Robert Bederoff has a US flag and a Ukrainian flag on his truck as he is interviewed by about the Ukrainian-Russian war as he speaks in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

Bederoff told  on Thursday that he feels the need to express his pride and concern for relatives who face a military onslaught nearly 5,000 miles away.

Bederoff told on Thursday that he feels the need to express his pride and concern for relatives who face a military onslaught nearly 5,000 miles away.

Allen Kachur

Allen Kachur, 58, worked at a gift shop on Thursday but focused on his two brothers and sister, who live in Chernivtsi in western Ukraine.

“I talked to everyone today because I’m worried,” Kachur said. “My relatives in Ukraine say that this is a war. And today I read that many people, young people, go to the army.

“They want to protect their land. They will fight, not surrender. But the Russians have the second most powerful army in the world. Ukraine cannot defend itself. He needs the support of other countries. Putin will not stop. He will continue this invasion and go as far as he can.”

He said that President Biden should not only impose sanctions, but also send more weapons to Ukraine.

In the meantime, he prays for peace talks.

“Civilians will die, the military will die on both sides,” he said. “But this is not 100 years ago. It’s the 21st century, and we have a negotiating table. We need negotiations.

Allen Kachur, 58, worked at a gift shop on Thursday but focused on his two brothers and sister, who live in Chernivtsi in western Ukraine.  He gave an interview to  about the war between Ukrainians and Russians when he spoke in Brooklyn.

Allen Kachur, 58, worked at a gift shop on Thursday but focused on his two brothers and sister, who live in Chernivtsi in western Ukraine. He gave an interview to about the war between Ukrainians and Russians when he spoke in Brooklyn.

Flora Mignala

49-year-old Flora Minyala has a 47-year-old brother living in Lviv.

“I’m just thinking about my brother,” she said. “I am destroyed. That’s just terrible. I can’t reach him and need to download an app to try and talk to him today. I’m worried that this is all leading to World War III.”

“I thought Putin would sit down and talk,” she added.

“I don’t understand why Putin is doing this. What does he really want, money? I just hope President Biden can do something to stop what’s happening without making it worse than it is now.”

49-year-old Flora Minyala has a 47-year-old brother living in Lviv.  “I'm just thinking about my brother,” she said.  “I am destroyed.  That's just terrible.  I can't reach him and need to download an app to try and talk to him today.  I'm afraid it's all leading to World War III.

49-year-old Flora Minyala has a 47-year-old brother living in Lviv. “I’m just thinking about my brother,” she said. “I am destroyed. That’s just terrible. I can’t reach him and need to download an app to try and talk to him today. I’m afraid it’s all leading to World War III.”

Anthony Zlochevsky

Anthony Zlochevsky, 60, was born in the port city of Odessa and came to the United States in 1977, when Ukraine was part of Russia and the Soviet Union.

Now he divides the community, uniting both Russians and Ukrainians.

“People here are scared because we used to be one nation and we all have many relatives and families living in every country,” he said. “We are all worried about what will happen. I just pray that this ends soon because there is no winner. It’s terrible for everyone.”

“I’m not sure what’s behind Putin’s plans,” he added. I hope it’s not too late to stop the war.

Anthony Zlochevsky, 60, was born in the port city of Odessa and came to the United States in 1977, when Ukraine was part of Russia and the Soviet Union.  Now he shares a community that unites both Russians and Ukrainians.

Anthony Zlochevsky, 60, was born in the port city of Odessa and came to the United States in 1977, when Ukraine was part of Russia and the Soviet Union. Now he shares a community that unites both Russians and Ukrainians.

Roman Levkov

Roman Levkov, 55, lived in the Republic of Crimea until December, when he moved to the States.

“I was there when it changed to Russia in 2014,” Levkov said. He said that he considers himself Russian.

“People in Crimea live in Ukraine, but in fact they are Russian, pro-Russian,” he said. “They don’t want to be Europe. Russia has money, and in Russia they don’t steal as much as in Ukraine.”

Roman Levkov, 55, lived in the Republic of Crimea until December, when he moved to the States.  “I was there when it changed to Russia in 2014,” Levkov said.

Roman Levkov, 55, lived in the Republic of Crimea until December, when he moved to the States. “I was there when it changed to Russia in 2014,” Levkov said.

Mark Treiger, a Ukrainian-American and former New York City Council member who represented Coney Island, compared what is happening in Ukraine to a World War II blitzkrieg.

“Many in the Ukrainian community strongly condemn Russian aggression and any attempt by the Russian president to recreate the Soviet Union,” he told . “There is a reason why NATO was born, and there is a reason why America and allies who believed in democracy came together to try to resist Soviet aggression, communism and tyranny.

“We need to go back to the original principles of NATO formation and really unite the free world and stand up for Ukraine, because this is not the end for Putin,” he said.

“We have seen this play before, where a tyrant will try to conquer neighboring lands in the name of reunification, just like Hitler annexed and took over parts of Czechoslovakia,” he said.

“It ends badly when the world practices appeasement. The United States needs to rally Europe, NATO and their allies and put adequate pressure on Russia to suspend this operation and protect the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

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