MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Friday, members of New Hampshire’s Ukrainian community gathered to meet with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to discuss the ongoing invasion of their homeland by the Russian Federation.
Organized by Christina Pasicznyk-Vogel, the event was made to provide an opportunity for Shaheen to hear from Ukranians who have moved to New Hampshire or have some sort of familial connection to Ukraine to provide their personal feedback on what they are hearing. The event also provided a chance for those people to ask Shaheen questions on the federal government’s views on the conflict.
Pasicznyk-Vogel thanked Shaheen for her support of Ukraine in Washington and asked her to continue her support for the Ukrainian government until victory can be achieved. She also asked Shaheen to continue her support of refugees from the conflict who have come to New Hampshire.
Pasicznyk-Vogel also expressed her pride in the courage of the Ukrainian people and those in New Hampshire who have supported them, but noted that many Granite Staters are unaware of the sheer magnitude of the conflict.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are just busy with their lives and concerns, so they don’t understand the gravity of the situation,” she said. “The war is a travesty.”
She added that Ukraine needs continued support from the U.S. in the form of materiel rather than soldiers, something echoed by those in the audience. Shaheen also shared the story of a female Ukrainian soldier she met who said that the U.S. needed to give Ukraine the weapons they needed so that they could fight the Russians so the U.S. would not have to fight them later.
Shaheen added that the comments made by the group would help make her case in Washington that there is popular support for continued assistance for the Ukrainian government, which she said has totaled $26.7 billion up to this point.
She also noted that 31 tanks are expected to arrive in Ukraine soon with more on the way from the German and British governments and the U.S. Attorney General’s office is also engaged in efforts to aid those documenting war crimes on the ground.
“The fact that one person, Vladimir Putin, can wreck the kind of tragedy on an entire country and people is not acceptable,” she said. “As a free world, we cannot allow that to happen.”
Shaheen further added that conditions for ending the conflict are up to the Ukrainian government, stating that decisions on Ukraine should be made by Ukraine.
Lena Neruk, one of the people in attendance at the event, hails from Ukraine and now runs a non-profit group called Dobro New England, Dobro roughly meaning “kindness” in Ukrainian.
Her organization provides Ukrainian cultural activities in addition to direct support for those who have lost everything in Ukraine due to the war, allowing New Hampshire residents to provide humanitarian items even if they cannot provide the military items that only governments can afford to give to Ukraine.
Although she said the immediate need is to help those in Ukraine affected by the war, whom she and others at the event said largely want to stay in Ukraine if possible, she also said that efforts will also eventually need to shift to helping those who have migrated to the U.S. due to the war who face hardships transitioning into American culture and may struggle with legal issues ranging from job eligibility to paperwork needed for housing.
Each night, Neruk says she checks for news from Ukraine to make sure family members still living there are safe, and she hails the expertise of Ukraine’s military forces for the job they have done so far as well as the support that other countries have provided to Ukraine’s military to help protect her home country.
One thing noted during the event was frustration with the lack of knowledge across the U.S. about Holodomor, a genocide during the 1930s that occurred in Ukraine due to Soviet policies. Neruk see’s today’s war as a continuation of that dark moment in history, with Putin aiming to eradicate the Ukrainian people.
However, she sees the Ukrainians’ centuries-long struggle for self-determination as comparable to America’s struggle for independence against the British, and like in America, she believes Ukraine will not give up until a truly peaceful future.
“(Ukrainians) want to fight,” she said. “It’s not about territory, it’s about freedom.”