Western New Yorkers impacted by crisis in Ukraine

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – The crisis in Ukraine affects people all across the world, including people in Western New York, which has a large Ukrainian population.  Officials with the Ukrainian Cultural Center of Buffalo estimate between 10,000 and 15,000 people in WNY are Ukrainian, many of whom are keeping a close eye on developments on television.

Emil Bandriwsky, the center’s treasurer, says they’re doing what they can from the United States.  Over the last 3 months they’ve had informational demonstrations in front of city hall, the peace bridge, and in Niagara Falls, Canada.  A group also went to Washington, D.C. to speak to representatives, including Congressman Brian Higgins who is a member of the Ukrainian Congressional Caucus.

Bandriwsky admits it’s been hard to watch, as many of his people struggle and the situation is constantly changing. “Oh it’s horrible to watch. I think that all of us are glued to the internet and TVs constantly. What we can do here is support our friends and family in Ukraine and get the information out. There’s a lot of disinformation and we feel our mission what we can contribute is to tell the truth,” said Bandriwsky.

Bandriwsky said he planned on going to Ukraine for the next election, but now it looks like those plans will likely be on hold.

Last month News 4 spoke with Buffalo State professor Kimberly Kline.  She taught in Ukraine last year and at the time couldn’t locate one of her students. “Although it’s tumultuous right now, the students that I work with Kiev Mohyla Academy were the very students who in part helped to bring about the revolution,” said Kline.

One student that Kline was worried about was Ukrainian journalist Slavka Kutsay who Kline has kept in touch with through social media, since leaving Ukraine last May. “I actually could not locate her for a few days and that made me quite uneasy,” said Kline.

But just weeks later, Kutsay made her way to Buffalo for a trip planned before the uprising in Ukraine.

“You feel a little bit lost in all of that inferno that took place and you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Kutsay.  She felt relieved when the Ukrainian president fled the country, but she was in the United States when Russian troops entered Ukraine. She’s been trying to stay connected. “I just can’t stop updating the information on my social networks,” said Kutsay.

She says she’s scared for her family’s safety, but not her own. “Maybe I’m not so afraid because I’m young and I have nothing to lose,” said Kutsay.  “I want to go back because there are so many things that are not done yet.”

While there is so much uncertainty now, she’s hopeful for Ukraine’s future. “All the best of course, but it won’t’ be easy. I’m preparing for a hard time,” said Kutsay.

Kutsay is in Buffalo until Friday. She will be speaking to Buffalo State students Monday on how she fought for higher education reform. Kutsay and Kline are asking for people to show support by using the #Ukraine on Twitter.

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