Refugees in Philly keeping close eye on homeland as Ukraine reclaims more territory

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said there were so many POWs that the country was running out of space to accommodate them.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Refugees keep close eye on homeland as Ukraine reclaims more territory
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"Thank God. Russia, run away from our blessed Ukrainian territory," said Yuliia Bihun, a refugee living in Philadelphia following news that troops expanded their territorial gains Monday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Ukrainian troops expanded their territorial gains Monday, pushing all the way to the country's northeastern border in places, and claimed to have captured a record number of Russian soldiers as part of the lightning advance that forced Moscow to make a hasty retreat.

A spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian troops were surrendering en masse as "they understand the hopelessness of their situation." A Ukrainian presidential adviser said there were so many POWs that the country was running out of space to accommodate them.

Blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags fluttered over newly liberated towns across a wide swath of reclaimed land. The Ukrainian military said it had freed more than 20 settlements in 24 hours. In recent days, Kyiv's forces have captured territory at least twice the size of greater London, according to the British Defense Ministry.

"Thank God. Russia, run away from our blessed Ukrainian territory," said Yuliia Bihun, a Ukrainian refugee living in Philadelphia.

Bihun is celebrating the recent news of territorial advancements.

"Ukrainian army is the most brave army in the world," said Bihun.

Her husband is still in Urkaine. She's in Philadelphia with her 2-year-old daughter, Sarra. The family has been getting help from St. Luke Orthodox Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

Bishop Luke Zhoba, of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Northern Liberties, said while Ukraine is making progress back home, he feels the Russian army is still unpredictable.

"This is good news. We feel much better, but Russian, you know very aggressive, especially the government and Putin," said Zhoba.

That's why he is helping Ukrainian refugees start a new life here in Philadelphia. One of the refugees staying at his church, Alla Pukhtetska, is now volunteering to teach English to other refugees.

Monday was her first day of teaching.

"There are a lot of people who would like also to come and we are going to provide the services every day, day by day," said Pukhtetska.

The end goal, for many like Bihun, is to be reunited with family.

"We hope as soon as possible we come back home," said Bihun.

Some refugees are staying at the church's rectory in Northern Liberties.

The church is looking for donations of any kind, food, clothing, and furniture to help the refugees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.