Local community fears for loved ones in homeland amid Ukraine-Russia crisis: 'Please pray for us'

Members of the Ukraine American Sports Club have family and friends in Ukraine hiding in bomb shelters and fleeing their homes.
MONTGOMERY TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Ukrainian community in the Philadelphia region is on edge as conflict continues to escalate back in their homeland.

Members of the Ukraine American Sports Club in Montgomery Township have family and friends in Ukraine hiding in bomb shelters and fleeing their homes.

Although they are not physically in Ukraine, members tell Action News they feel attacked.

"They've been transfixed with the buzz of war for eight years," said Eugene Luciw, director of external relations at the Ukrainian American Sports Center.

The Ukrainian community knew something was coming, just not on this level. Luciw says civilians there are training how to fight, including children.

Luciw says his family has their documents ready and their bags packed to escape west, but they don't know how. It's past the point of getting in their cars and driving. He is worried what the next few days will bring.

"Ukrainian's army is the second strongest army in Europe. It will resist. However, the Russians will persist. When those two armies meet, there is going to be an explosion, and it's going to be on the level of World War II," feared Luciw.

The sports director of soccer development at the club, Roman, came to the United States from Ukraine for a better life in 2001. His grandmother, relatives and friends are all still there. He says Ukraine needs help now, but something could have been done sooner.

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"Now it's time not to be afraid, it's time to act. Ukraine has manpower, give them sufficient weaponry to sustain the threat and keep them away," Roman argued.

He says Ukraine will not surrender, but he also expects the worst from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The people will not surrender, period. Even if he takes his army there, he will have to kill 43 million people. As the night comes, the devil comes out, so we better be prepared for this night to be very hot," said Roman.

People we spoke with refer to Putin as a nuclear monster, but they say it's going to take everyone to unite together to stop him.

"Please pray for us, help us. We shall overcome, we just need everybody's help. Please don't leave Ukraine," cried a woman who did not want to be named.

Luciw says the Ukraine American Sports Club was founded by post-World War II immigrants running from Ukraine; passion for their heritage and their love for soccer drove them.

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