Local Russian, Ukrainian immigrants living in Philadelphia struggle to understand war

"It's really difficult for all of us," said Arthur of Northeast Philadelphia. He immigrated from Moscow in 1981.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Even with graphic images and reports coming out of Ukraine, it's difficult for immigrants from both Russia and Ukraine to wrap their heads around the war.

For some Russian-Americans, the connection to Ukraine is a familial one.

"It's really difficult for all of us," said Arthur of Northeast Philadelphia.

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He immigrated from Moscow to the United States in 1981 and opposes the war.

"Most people have families in Ukraine and brothers and sisters in Russia," he said.

Information collected by 6abc's Data Journalism team shows Pennsylvania has the fourth-largest population of people with Russian ancestry in the nation and the third-largest population of people with Ukrainian ancestry.

Andre Krug is Ukrainian. He serves immigrants from both countries at KlienLife Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia.

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"There was never even a hint of an idea that Russia would be fighting Ukraine because of how close we always were," said Krug, President and CEO of KleinLife "It's just bizarre. It's doesn't, it doesn't compute."

Mitchell Orenstein, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said many people in Russia are shocked by the news.

"There is a sense of shock presently among Russian people in Russia, this is not their image of Russia," said Orenstein, "Ukrainians are kind of seen as close cousins. So, I think there is a sense of shock and widespread disappointment and disapproval of this war among a lot of people in Russia."

There is a sense of gratitude from immigrants of both nations now living in the U.S. where they feel safe, but heartbreak for the people back home.
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