According to the most recent U.S. Census data available, there are more than a million people who identify as Ukranian living in America — with a large contingent found in New York.
Ukrainians in the states were already worried about family and friends back home, and those worries are intensified now that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered a military draft.
Manhattan’s East Village, famously known as Little Ukraine or the Ukrainian Village, is home to about 60,000 Ukrainian-Americans.
Veselka is probably the city’s best-known Ukrainian restaurant. It was packed Wednesday, with some patrons remaining optimistic that Western intervention might lead to a peaceful resolution to the crisis. But that optimism is quickly fading.
“I feel very saddened; I have a very heavy heart,” said Jason Birchard, a Ukrainian-American living in New York City. “I’m hoping that these sanctions that are in place now will really hurt Putin and his cronies. Ukraine just celebrated its 30th anniversary of independence, but we’re living under extraordinary times, being a neighbor of Putin.”
Andrij Dobriansky, of United Ukrainian-American Organizations of New York, said watching a new generation go through what older generations experienced is difficult.
“We don’t want that next generation to live through everything,” Dobriansky said. “Our entire population [in New York City] is mostly refugees. Those stories of tanks bursting through the wall are what we fear the next generation is going to experience pretty soon.”