(NewsNation) — While Lois “Bunny” Drueke is overjoyed to have her son, Alex, back from Russian captivity, her heart still goes out to the Ukrainian families being “scattered and broken up” this holiday season.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet Thanksgiving,” she told NewsNation Wednesday.
Alex Drueke said being back feels incredible.
“We weren’t sure if this was ever going to happen again,” he said.
Alex is a U.S. military veteran who traveled to Ukraine to take up arms against Russian forces after they invaded in February. He is back home safely now with his family this Thanksgiving after being held captive by the Russians for more than 100 days. He and another U.S. citizen, Andy Huynh, were released in a prisoner exchange deal brokered by Saudi Arabia.
During their time in captivity, Alex and Huynh were interrogated, physically and psychologically abused, and given little food or clean water, The Washington Post reported.
Lois told “NewsNation Live” that it’s been difficult to see “the marks of war and abuse” on her son.
“Our weeks have been filled with doctor’s visits because we’re getting him all checked out,” she said.
Now that he’s back, it’s become part of Alex’s mission to keep the focus on Ukraine, and other Americans who are being held captive.
“This war is not over,” Alex said. “I may be home for Thanksgiving, but there are thousands and thousands of people still being held captive in horrible conditions by the Russians.”
Alex was able to talk to Ukraine’s ambassador and some U.S. representatives last week. He said after talking to Ukrainian leadership, he told them that they need equipment.
“(The Ukrainians) are some fierce fighters, and they’re going to win this war, but we need to make sure that we’re giving them the right equipment to do that,” Alex said. “Because if Ukraine were to fall, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is not going to be satisfied. And you know, this is a fight for freedom. This is the fight for democracy.”
Lois said the Ukrainian’s fight reminds her of the United States’ fight for freedom when the country was just starting out.
“We were fighting for the same things — for freedom for our country, for the right to govern ourselves, and so I really feel a kinship with the Ukrainians,” she said.