CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Although the conflict in Ukraine may seem far-removed from Central Virginia, local residents with family in the embattled nation are constantly watching to see what will happen next.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said that 352 civilians have been killed just four days into Russia’s invasion — including 14 children — the Associated Press reported. An additional 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.
The ministry’s statement Sunday did not give any information on casualties among Ukraine’s armed forces.
The Chornodolsky family in Midlothian told 8News that they still have family in the Eastern European country.
“My sister’s been closely in touch with family that was in Kyiv, and they fled to Lviv in Western Ukraine,” Volodymyr Chornodolsky said. “My cousin, actually, went back to see how he could help and support. So we are watching closely. For now, our latest communication was that they’re safe. But it’s an ever-changing environment.”
Volodymyr said his grandparents and parents immigrated to the United States from Ukraine after World War II.
“They landed in New York and Baltimore and had to create new lives for themselves here in the United States,” he said. “They were fleeing for many of the same reasons that the people of Ukraine are fighting for now: freedom, independence, an invasion by Russia into a sovereign country. They came with one suitcase each, and [we are] watching people now cross the border into Poland, Romania, fleeing with one suitcase and the coat on their backs with children and families fleeing from Russia.”
The Chornodolskys recently took part in a pro-Ukraine rally in Washington, D.C. They said that they expect such events to continue for the next several weeks.
“Seeing everyone around carry freedom flags in support of our identity and our people was just amazing, and it’s fighting for something that’s extremely important and prevalent, and is worth every ounce of the support that it’s getting and more,” daughter Sonia said. “I think that seeing everyone there was extremely important and a really wonderful experience, even though it’s fighting something that is not good.”
Sonia’s mother, Veronica, also has Ukrainian ancestors.
“Even though it feels far away for people here in Richmond, it is at our doorstep in ways that we could be feeling because [President Vladimir Putin’s] rage is against western freedoms, and that does mean America and everything that we stand for as Americans,” she said. “This is something that we should all keep our eye and our focus on.”
The Chornodolskys said that they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the people of Ukraine, and hope that people will continue to be vocal in speaking out against Putin’s actions.
“The Ukrainian national anthem starts out with, ‘Ще не вмерла України і слава, і воля,'” Volodymyr said. “Ukraine has not died yet, Ukraine will rise, Ukraine will come again, and we will continue to fight and support here in the U.S., in Europe and all around the world.”
“Day four of this horrible situation,” Volodymyr said. “It’s going to be a long road still of, I think, war for the people of Ukraine, but an even longer rebuilding for many, many years.”