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NYC Ukrainians React to Unfolding Conflict

For Ukrainians around the world, watching Russia’s attack unfold from a distance has been especially difficult. Clara-Sophia Daly headed to the East Village to check in with New York’s Ukrainian community.


Maria Chutz is a fixture of New York City’s Ukrainian community. For the past 45 years, she has been the director of the Ukrainian Museum. The museum collection includes colorful folk art and old textiles and photographs.

Sitting inside the lobby, Chutz says as she was watching the bombings on TV last night, she was hoping Russia wouldn’t attack Kyiv, the cradle of Ukraine’s culture, with churches that were built in the 10th century and Museums with artifacts from 5000 B.C.

MARIA CHUTZ: Ukraine is older than Russia. Ukraine was there before Moscow. They had appropriated Ukraine's history. We have our own culture. We have our own history. We have our own language. We're a nation.

DALY: Chutz is almost in tears – but despite the chaos in the news she is calm. Chutz says Ukraine needs help but is careful not to react too strongly.

CHUTZ: It may be the wisest move right now to not to go in with guns blazing at it, with the whole world kind of joining into this fight

DALY: Around the corner at Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant on the corner of 2nd Ave customers look relaxed. Their sipping coffee, and enjoying warm pancakes and perogies. But the mood among many of the staff is not so warm.

Jason Birchard owns the restaurant. He says his grandfather was a Ukrainian patriot who escaped when Russia annexed the country during World War II. He came to New York and opened the restaurant soon after. Birchard says today his grandfather would be rolling in his grave. Ukraine has a long and difficult past with Russia involving war and famine and going back centuries.

BIRCHARD: This could be the next world war 3, I mean have we not learned enough from our history? This is very sad, I feel very sad. [8 seconds]

DALY: After staying up watching the news last night, Birchard and his employees gathered this morning for prayer – hopeful that peace will prevail. Some of the servers here have family in Ukraine. They're worried. They didn't want to talk on tape.

BIRCHARD: At this moment I really believe we are dealing with a mad man in Putin, and he should be held accountable for his actions– I mean this is.. he’s bringing on unnecessary losses of life, for what? [16 seconds]

DALY: For Birchard, and many other Ukranian New Yorkers, they feel a sense of regret. It’s like history is being repeated.

Clara-Sophia Daly, Columbia Radio News.

CORRECTION: The aired version of the story stated that during World War II Russia invaded Ukraine. But it was the former Soviet Union that invaded Ukraine at the time, not Russia.


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