‘They Want To Destroy Our People’: LA’s Ukrainian Community Reacts To Russian Invasion
It was a sea of yellow and blue outside the U.S. Federal Building in Westwood as hundreds of Ukraine supporters protested Russia’s invasion on Thursday.
Demonstrators arrived around 10 a.m. and sang the Ukrainian national anthem, raised signs above their heads as traffic honked in support, and chanted “No War In Ukraine!” and “Putin Go Home!”
Many in the crowd said they have lost a lot of sleep this week, as they try to keep in contact with family and friends living in Ukraine.
“We’re trying to stay sane,” said L.A. resident Evgenia Kornienko, who attended the protest with her dog, both of them wearing traditional Ukrainian garb, called Vyshyvanka.
Kornienko said she’d been up all night talking with family in Ukraine, including her mother.
“They are not doing good, they called me at their 5 a.m.,” Kornienko said. “While Vladimir Putin was talking, [my mom said] the shelling was nonstop.”
A political refugee who’s lived in the U.S. since 2014, Kornienko said she feels sorry for every Ukrainian. “I feel guilty that I’m here, but I’m doing whatever I can do,” she said.
Maria Novichenkova said she’s been in L.A. for the past seven years or so. For her part, she’s trying to keep calm and not panic. She said she and her husband are also thinking about next steps.
“If a conflict will escalate more and if … sanctions are not working, my husband will join [the] military and I will join either ... medical crew or I will be [a] driver,” Novichenkova said. “I’m a good driver.”
Eugene Novoseletsky said his mother and grandmother are currently in Ukraine and he’s very worried for them. He didn’t mince words when talking about what he believes is happening there now.
“It’s direct war ... They want to occupy our country, they want to destroy our people, our culture and our language,” Novoseletsky said.
There were at least a few Russian Americans at the protest, too, who came to support their Ukrainian friends.
Gregory Franguridi said he was born in Moscow and believes the cost of protesting for Russians abroad is very high right now.
“We need to understand, even those thousands of people who have come out on the streets of Moscow and other Russian cities today are actually risking detention and jail time,” Franguridi said.
L.A. resident Serhii Petruk said he too has family currently in Ukraine. “They are crying, [but] they are strong,” Petruk reported.
Petruk fought back his own tears as he spoke, holding a sign that read: “Save Ukraine.”
“Everybody understand ... something [has] gone wrong in this world right now,” Petruk said.
“It’s our history. Now,” he lamented, “it’s [the] new history of Ukraine.”