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As conflict looms, local Ukrainian Americans worry for their loved ones

As the tensions in Eastern Europe intensify, local Ukrainian Americans worry about family and friends who live there. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado met with a couple who wants peace but not at the cost of their motherland’s freedom.

As the tensions in Eastern Europe intensify, local Ukrainian Americans worry about family and friends who live there.

For Askold and Nadia Haywas, watching the images and escalation of tensions happening on Ukraine's border with Russia is personal.

"It’s quite stressful. One word, 'uncertainty,'" said Askold.

They live in Oceanside and while they met and married in America, their families are from Ukraine. Askold, a former U.S. Marine, was born there and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s.


"I’m proud of me, of being Ukrainian American," he said, adding that he flies the American flag above the Ukrainian one outside his home.

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Both still have family and friends there. Visiting the House of Ukraine in Balboa Park makes them feel a little closer to their loved ones thousands of miles away.

"Ukraine is always in my heart," said Nadia.

"I’m here, I’m safe, I’m comfortable, and yet what can I do?" said Askold.


They are worried for their loved ones' safety if Russia were to invade and conflict were to break out.

"You sort of wish that they were all here with you. Pack them into my house ... and that would be perfectly fine by me," said Askold.

But their families say they're preparing in case the worst were to happen.

"A little like what we do if we have fire season, you make sure you know where all your documents are so you have them if you need them," said Nadia.

Yet, in the face of uncertainty, as troops gather on both sides and the U.S. and its allies send support, their loved ones, of all ages, tell them they will not leave.

"They were born there, they live there, they grew up there, their grandparents are buried there, it is their country, and he [Vladimir Putin] has no rights to it. Why should they leave, they’re ready to fight," said Askold.

"They are united for one free and democratic Ukraine and they will fight and they will die for it," said Nadia.

And from America, all they can do is pray for peace but support them in their fight.

"Fight and you shall win," said Askold, translating from a Ukrainian quote by a famous poet.

"I would have to repeat exactly what my husband said," added Nadia. "We cannot give up."