Feb 25, 2022 - News

Prominent Ukrainians in Philly react to invasion

Ukrainian population by metro area, 2019
Data: U.S. Census; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Ukrainian fears became a reality Wednesday evening when Russia invaded the sovereign country.

Why it matters: Ukrainians and experts in Philly believe this war will result in a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Between the lines: This week’s news is much worse than most expected, as Russia is invading the entire country instead of following its announced plan of attacking just Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

  • Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a doctoral student at Penn History and an expert in Ukrainian history, partially blames the U.S. for not doing enough when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
  • "Our response set up the stage for what we're seeing now," she tells Axios. "Putin has done a cost-benefit analysis and still decided to go through with this."

By the numbers: Philadelphia's Ukrainian population is about 6,900 people, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

  • That population increases to roughly 50,000 when factoring in the entire metro area.

What they're saying: Iryna Mazur, honorary consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia, tells Axios she has faith that Ukraine will prevail, but "it will be extremely painful because a lot of people would lose their husbands, their sons, their daughters."

  • Motrja Watters, the executive director of the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee based in Northeast Philly, says she's been keeping in touch with family abroad but worries about cell phone and internet disruptions.
  • "I fear that we're going back to the Stalin era and that they’re going to destroy everything Ukrainian that they possibly can to try to establish that there never was a nationality or country. It's just devastating," she adds.

How to help: The United Ukrainian American Relief Committee is working twice as much to ramp up aid efforts. It's accepting donations and primarily needs financial contributions and medical supplies.

Zoom out: President Joe Biden imposed measures on Russia Thursday meant to hinder the country's ability to do business on the global scale.

What’s next: There will be a Ukrainian solidarity rally at City Hall today at noon.

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