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'It's like a very bad nightmare': Hampton Roads Ukrainians fear for family back home after Russian invasion

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Posted at 11:19 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 23:35:55-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - As world leaders cautioned for weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine.

Russian forces unleashed airstrikes on cities and military bases as the government of Ukraine pleads for help.

All this comes as Ukrainians across the globe watch in disbelief.

News 3 spoke to Ukranian natives living here in the Hampton Roads area about the crisis.

For many, it was a sleepless night, worrying about the safety of family members still living in Ukraine.

“It's difficult being far away from tragic events. There's a strong sense of helplessness,” said Wally Melnitchouk, a Ukrainian native living in Newport News.

After months of military buildup along the border, Russia has invaded Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union. It began its attack just before dawn.

Missiles rained down across once peaceful Ukrainian cities.

“It’s like a very bad nightmare. You just think you keep dreaming, but you cannot wake up,” said Tetiana Ordono, a Ukrainian living in Virginia Beach.

Like many Hampton Roads Ukrainians, Ordono tells us she didn’t sleep last night and has been glued to the TV all day, worried about her family back home.

“Last time I spoke to them, they were safe, because again, we're in central Ukraine. So, as I understand this Russian group, not yet so much close, so very close to that part. But I don't know how much they proceed,” she said.

According to the Pentagon, Russia launched more than 100 missiles into Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says more than 100 people have been killed.

Ukrainians are sick to their stomachs, worried they could lose the independence they fought so hard for.

“The actual existence of the country as an entity has not really been something that I have thought would be, you know, that I’d have to face again, think about again,” Melnitchouk said.

But Melnitchouk and Ordono tell us Ukrainians are strong and will persevere.

“Let's not give up. And let's put all our mutual efforts in order, you know, to elevate and give a knowledge and educate about this situation as much as we can and spread the word,” Ordono said.

Demonstrators will gather Friday morning to show their support for Ukraine and rally against Russia’s invasion.

If you’d like to find out more about that event, click here.

Related: Local expert explains what Russia-Ukraine conflict means for Hampton Roads