Around 200,000 Ukrainian Americans live in Illinois, and more than 50,000 of them live in Chicago. Ukrainian Village residents said they're devastated and glued to the TV. Many have loved ones who are in Ukraine.
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Some in Chicago are getting phone calls from those relatives, who are hearing explosions from missiles.
For many in the Northwest Side neighborhood, the day began with a morning mass at St. Nicolas's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. Parishioners prayed for peace, and a mood that began as shock transformed, over the course of the day, to sadness and anger.
"This is personal," said Nastia Lototska. "My uncle died seven years ago fighting the same war. It's sad that we're here. It's crippling that we're back where when my cousins are now getting the letter to go."
"What people told in Lujansk, that they just stop all public transportation. Grab every man possible to fight and just take them away," said Anatolii Konovaliuk.
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Marta Farion with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is calling for every possible sanction against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia.
"Not only economic sanctions, we need help, we need military help, we need the west and the United States to help Ukraine before there's blood on the streets. There's blood on the streets already," Farion said.
She said no one wants a world war, but Ukraine needs allies.
Many are trying to get in touch with their loved ones.
"They're scared," said Lyubov Stelmaschuk, of their family back home in Ukraine. "Because the stores, everything is closed. People are trying. Some are staying. Some are leaving the country. It's chaos. They don't know what to do."
"I spoke with my parents right before I got here, so thankfully it's OK for now," said Vitalii Skakun.
"My cousin mentioned his wife and children left for Western Ukraine 10 days ago," said Lydia Tkaczuk, president of the board of directors for the Ukrainian National Museum. "He and his brother in law are staying in Kyiv to fight. To defend."
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Children from St. Nicholas Cathedral School gathered in church to pray for peace in Ukraine. Many have family there and were frightened Thursday morning.
Eighth-grader Paul Skomoroch has been talking to his cousins.
"They tell me that they are ready to do whatever they can to defend themselves and be safe, but they're also packing up and ready to move to another country," he said.
"The prayers of children are very strong because they have very clean hearts, and I invited children to continuously pray for Ukraine and for peace," Father Serhiy Kovalchuk said.
Lana Lychak, 21, moved to Chicago from Ukraine three months ago with her parents. Her grandparents and friends are still there.
"I'm feeling so bad. I'm (scared) because my friend go on the war today in the morning. So yeah, I'm crying all morning, and I don't know what will be in Ukraine," she said.
Others in Chicago's Ukrainian community, like Walter Siryj who owns Ann's Bakery and Deli, are also worrying about their family.
"I'm very worried, and I'm also sad because how I can help?" he said.
"We're all looking for some kind of comfort," said Father Mykola Buryadnyk of St. Joseph the Betrothed parish in Chicago. "I see fear, I see pain, worry about their families. There are so many of them with really close family, with mothers, brothers, wives sometimes, still in Ukraine."
And many of his parishioners elderly parents remember the pain and destruction of wars past.
"We can only feel, but we don't understand. We just can't gather how bad they feel, how heartbroken they are," said Zory Staseuich.
Staseuich's brother remains in eastern Ukraine amidst nearby heavy shelling. Many others have similar stories.
"The majority of my family is being drafted, so that's scary. Some are not eligible to be drafted. But nobody is fleeing. Everyone is staying. Everyone is going to fight this fight," Lototska said.
Fearful and losing sleep, many in these church communities are hoping the world will stop Putin from going any further.
"Unfortunately we now, the world, forget about Ukrainians, the world has to do something to stop this mad man," Jaroslawa Abramiuk said.
And while many admit to feeling helpless being so far away, they're still organizing. There was a midday rally at a church on Chicago Avenue and Superior Street, and earlier in the day a group of protesters called attention to Ukraine's plight over the Kennedy expressway at Harlem.
"We feel real pain today," said Roman Stelmaschuk. "Nobody, nobody expected something like this is going to happen in the 21st century."
Illinois politicians swiftly condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine
Illinois Republicans and Democrats united in condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine, hoping sanctions work and calling for people to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.
"Every American stands for the nation of Ukraine today, or should. The nation of Ukraine has been attacked by an autocratic by a dangerous leader who should be pushed back upon," Governor JB Pritzker said, noting great grandfather emigrated from Ukraine 150 years ago.
"Only congress has the authority to declare war, I'm hoping we're far from doing that," said Rep. Garcia, (D-Chicago).
The Illinois National Guard has traveled to Ukraine the past two years to help train soldiers there. Governor Pritzker hoping they won't need to be deployed again.
"My concern is that Vladimir Putin's ambitions have no bounds. And that he does aspire to reestablish the former Soviet empire," said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10th District).
"I think what this act shows is he's a ruthless killer and he doesn't care about the harm that he is doing to innocents in the Ukraine and the surrounding territory," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Sen. Dick Durbin took to Twitter to say, "Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine's sovereign land is a dire threat to the established international order and must be resolutely deterred."
I'm leaving the quiet streets of Vilnius this morning for IL. Last night a dinner w/ Dr. Landsbergis reminded me of the courage of the Lithuanians 30 years ago in standing up to the brutality of Moscow. Today our generation faces the same test w/ Putin’s deadly attack on Ukraine.— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) February 24, 2022
Sen. Tammy Duckworth said "The human suffering caused-and any blood spilled-as a result of this unjustified and unjustifiable attack on Ukraine's sovereign territory are solely on Vladimir Putin's hands. And we must hold him and his cronies fully, painfully and immediately accountable."
The human suffering caused—and any blood spilled—as a result of this unjustified and unjustifiable attack on Ukraine’s sovereign territory are solely on Vladimir Putin’s hands. And we must hold him and his cronies fully, painfully and immediately accountable.— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) February 24, 2022
At a rally in Ukrainian Village, Congressman Mike Quigley, who co-chairs the congressional Ukrainian Caucus, said the world is watching America's response.
"There are other authoritarian regimes with eyes on peaceful, loving democracies. Beijing is watching and so are others," Quigley said.
Wednesday night he released a statement that said:
"Tonight, Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine begins a war of choice entirely of President Putin's making, despite months of intense diplomacy. The price that Ukrainians will pay for that choice is unfathomable.
"While the Kremlin's disinformation apparatus is in full swing, I want to be clear that no one is responsible for this bloodshed other than Putin. As I have for months, I will continue to call for appropriate repercussions for Russia's invasion, and if necessary, I will press the administration and our allies to take broader, harsher action.
"As these events unfold, my message to the Ukrainian people is simple: we stand with you."
U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, D-La Grange, also responded, saying,
"My heart breaks for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who, as we speak, are under attack and bombardment by Russian troops. This unjustified invasion is not only a grave violation of international law and the Charter of the UN but represents one of the darkest moments for Europe since World War II.
"The catastrophic loss of life and human suffering that this invasion will bring is unimaginable. Make no mistake, we will not tolerate the lies, the aggression and the senseless violence being carried out by the murderous dictator Vladimir Putin. In this moment of global crisis, the United States, our allies and our partners will ensure Putin's Russia is isolated from the world and left weakened strategically, economically and diplomatically.
"We will continue to support and always stand with the independent and free nation of Ukraine."