New Englanders With Ukrainian Ties Rocked By Russian Invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement of military action in Ukraine sent shockwaves around the world

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News of Russia's military invasion of Ukraine is shaking the Ukrainian community in Massachusetts and comes as U.S. lawmakers prepare a bill of sanctions after returning from meetings in Europe.

Sudbury resident Tania Vitvitsky said loved ones in Ukraine remain calm despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's marching orders.

"I can't imagine living through that kind of pressure," said Vitvitsky.

Vitvitsky received an email from her nephew in Ukraine on Wednesday.

"It is hard to think of something other than news and war," he wrote in the letter. "We are already thinking of different scenarios, safety, shelters, how to back up our information."

It's a crude reality she and her family are facing: another invasion by Russia.

"I still find it shocking in 2022, we're going back to 19th century colonialism and imperialism," she said. "The country deserves to exist; the people deserve to live. They don't deserve to die because they have a crazy neighbor."

Vitvitsky fled Europe with her parents in 1949 after World War II. She was 3 years old when she came to Boston on the USS General Sturgis merchant marine ship.

Stories of conflict and the constant reshaping of borders in eastern Europe are nothing new to her. But with Russia's latest military advancements in eastern Ukraine and its recognition of two separatist regions as independent states, Ukrainians, she said, are ready for whatever Putin throws their way.

"They feel even more Ukrainian, even more European, and he's really forming an even stronger Ukraine," she said.

That sense of unity is what U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Massachusetts, described when he was in Germany this week for meetings over the conflict. He and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are introducing a sanctions bill that mirrors legislation in the UK aimed at crippling Russia's elite.

"They support Putin, Putin supports them, and that's where he get his political strength, as well," said Keating. "So by targeting them, we're putting the most pressure on Putin himself, because that's where he gets his incredible wealth."

Keating noted that Putin has accumulated enough reserves over the years to get to this point where he could withstand about six months of sanctions.

Fellow New England lawmakers also condemned Putin's action Wednesday night.

"Vladimir Putin will face the full wrath of the transatlantic alliance for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and waging war on the Ukrainian people," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said in a statement. "I urge the Biden administration to respond swiftly and in concert with our allies to impose crushing economic sanctions on Kremlin officials, Russian entities and other actors involved in this attack on Ukraine."

"Russia's unprovoked and unconscionable invasion of another sovereign nation is a direct threat not only to the people of Ukraine, but to peace, freedom, and security in every corner of the world," said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire. "The United States and our allies must bring to bear crippling consequences on Vladimir Putin and the Russian economy as a whole, as we also provide support to the Ukrainian people and our NATO allies. Americans must stand united, and our NATO alliance must stand strong against Putin's aggression."

In the meantime, Vitvitsky will continue to lobby lawmakers to stop Putin, while her nephew prepares for war.

"It is hard to withstand the informational pressure, but we don't have any other option but to being optimistic, united, and ready," Vitvitsky's nephew concluded in his letter.

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