Ukraine invasion sparks anger and anxiety in Ukrainian-American community in Pacific Northwest

On Thursday, Russian forces invaded Ukraine after weeks of intense Western diplomatic efforts to avert military conflict. Russian forces have already killed dozens of Ukrainian soldiers and targeted attacks on Ukrainian military installations and airports, according to news reports. The fighting has left Ukrainian-Americans in the Pacific Northwest worried for the safety of their relatives and friends in Ukraine, with some disappointed by the response so far from American and European allies to what could be the worst military crisis. in the region since World War II. Joining us is Tatiana Terdal, board member of the Ukrainian-American Cultural Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

David Miller: It’s Think Out Loud on OPB. I am Dave Miller. After months of preparation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began by air, land and sea. This is a large-scale attack from three sides. In response, Western governments, including the United States, announced economic sanctions designed to force Vladimir Putin’s hand. Tatiana Terdal joins us to discuss the situation. She is a board member of the Ukrainian American Cultural Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Tatiana, welcome back.

Tatiana Terdal: Thank you. Thank you for hosting me. I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to come back.

Miller: How are you today?

Terdal: Not good. Not good. I may have slept 2 or 3 hours because the invasion started last night at our time, which is early morning Ukrainian time. And since then, our whole community is fundamentally awakened.

Miller: As you said, we talked about two or three weeks ago, which preceded this war. Like you said, you were hoping not to just talk about that. For months there has been some sort of terrible guessing game about Putin, will he do it or will he not? Is it just a bluff? The Biden administration in recent weeks has been very clear, very explicit about Putin’s plans. They kept saying he was going to invade. Here is all that evidence. Did you think he would?

Terdal: I knew it was a strong possibility because in 2014 it invaded. He has already invaded Ukraine. So I knew it was a strong possibility that he would invade even further. So, yeah, I was hoping it wouldn’t happen, but I’m not surprised because it already happened in 2014.

Miller: How much information were you able to get directly from friends or family members you know in Ukraine?

Terdal: With some of them we were able to connect. With some family members, my mom couldn’t connect, so she’s trying this. I’ve been in contact with my high school classmate and she’s shown me views of explosions, videos of what she sees. She is, at the moment, only about two kilometers from the evacuation zone. Until now, she stays in her apartment with her disabled son. But other people are evacuating. Some people we’ve been able to reach and I’m hearing from friends of friends, and I’m here in Oregon, to find out if they can reach their relatives and friends and what’s going on with them. But others we haven’t heard from yet.

Miller: How worried are you that communication is one of the things that gets cut off and you can’t actually get information about what’s going on directly from friends or relatives?

Terdal: Yeah, it can happen anytime. So yes, it’s a very strong possibility.

Miller: I mentioned that the United States and other countries have now imposed sanctions, severe economic sanctions, on Russia. What do you think of these penalties?

Terdal: So they arrived quite recently. Yes, in less than an hour. And I could not study them in detail. I’m disappointed they arrived so late. I thought the United States would be ready the minute Russia crossed the borders to impose sanctions, because there was enough intelligence that the invasion was brewing and happening, because in the last few days the US Embassy not only moved from Ukraine’s capital, kyiv, to the western city of Lviv, but actually staff spent nights in Poland. The United States therefore knew that this could happen at any time. I’m surprised the sanctions weren’t ready when Russia attacked. There are sanctions that I don’t see on the list that I would like to see, like designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, I think that would have been a very strong immediate sanction that can have an immediate effect.

Miller: What more would you like to see?

Terdal: Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terror would therefore be strong. Another thing is to disconnect Russia from SWIFT, which is the main global network for financial institutions to send and receive information about international bank transfers, which will cripple it financially.

Miller: At today’s press conference, when asked directly about this, it seemed that the European partners may not be on board with this at this time. Reading between the lines, that seemed to be what the president was saying.

Terdal: Yes. And it is not surprising that some European partners do not want to punish Russia because they may share the same fascist views as Russia. And that’s a shame. But they don’t realize that their countries could be next, because that’s what happened in 1939. First the Nazis attacked Poland, then they went to other European democracies, then they also attacked their Soviet allies. Because remember the invasion of Poland started as a joint Nazi and Soviet invasion in 1939. And then the Nazis attacked their former Soviet allies in 1941. So not presenting a united front to this invader in this moment may cost Europeans dearly in the future.

Miller: I’m curious if you’ve been in contact with any Russian friends in the United States in the past 24 hours, and if so, what you’ve heard from them about Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Terdal: I see that I have friends on my Facebook feed who are of different races and ethnicities. Yes and some of my Russian friends just changed the images to add a Ukrainian flag. So it’s just very, very open and obvious support, and all I can say is thank you. All of my media are in Ukrainian flags right now, including relatives in Norway and my Russian friends in Portland. We also have many Russian speakers whose ethnicity or birthplace I don’t even know, but they are also changing their avatars to add the Ukrainian flag, and all I can say is thank you. And I’m sorry for the sounds. I continue to receive notifications and we as a community receive many messages of support, including from ecumenical ministries. I just listened to voicemail from Congress, then from Blumenauer’s office. We can’t reply to everyone yet, but we are truly grateful and truly appreciate your support. So yes, thank you.

Miller: It’s one thing for people to change their avatar, change their photo on social media, or leave you messages of support or send you notes of encouragement. What do you think people in the United States in general or in the Northwest can actually do right now that would be productive or really helpful?

Terdal: Send arms to Ukraine for self-defense. At present, Ukraine is fighting the Nazi invasion alone, and the same thing happened to Poland in 1939. If Poland had only been attacked from one side, perhaps it could have resist the Nazis. But when it was overrun on September 1, first by the Nazis from the west and then on September 17 by the Soviets from the east, it simply could not withstand all that overwhelming force on its own. So right now the Ukrainians are fighting well, but they may be out of ammunition. They may be out of arms. I now see calls from Ukrainian volunteers for blood donations. And I see local Ukrainians here saying that I wish I could donate blood. How can we do this? But you know, Ukraine will need support, certainly financial and also certainly additional supplies or weapons, because right now it is under attack with the full force of the Russian army and attacked from three sides. That’s another scary thing. They were attacked from the north from the territory of Belarus. They were attacked from the east from Russian-occupied territories in eastern Ukraine, and they are attacked from the south from Russian-occupied Crimea. And remember, Russia is a much bigger country than Ukraine and a much more populous country with a bigger army. So Ukraine really needs strong defensive armament support and financial support. And we are grateful to Poland for opening its border to Ukrainian refugees. That’s wonderful. But they also need to be protected as they evacuate, as there are now Russian tanks in Ukrainian towns.

Miller: Tatiana Terdal, thank you for joining us at a very difficult time. I appreciate it.

Terdal: Thanks thanks. I appreciate it too.

Miller: Tatiana Terdal is a board member of the Ukrainian American Cultural Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

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