BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — While conflict in Ukraine continues, the impact hits close to home for Ukrainian Americans here in Bakersfield. One even has family still in the country.
Bakersfield resident Galyna Koch’s mother lives in the countryside of west Ukraine, only an hour from one of the bombings. Her friend's family lives right in Kyiv, where another attack happened.
Right now, she’s praying for her loved ones, and the country she once called home.
“It’s very terrifying, because a lot of those people in Ukraine, [are hearing] those bombs, noise, and explosions. I heard people just dying of heart attacks because it was so scary there.”
Koch came to the United States from Ukraine a decade ago, but her mother is still there in the western countryside of Ukraine. After weeks of anticipation, Russia invaded Ukraine from multiple sides Wednesday night.
“She heard that only an hour away a bomb dropped on train station and two hours away, a bomb dropped on airport. She’s of course scared, and we’re praying for protection.”
Koch said she also has childhood friends and relatives still in Ukraine and her cousin with two daughters are right in the heart of the devastation in Kyiv.
Tensions between western powers and Russia has been rising for weeks but Koch said Russia’s been at war on the border for eight years. Now the aggression is threatening the lives of civilians. Koch said some Ukrainian civilians have already died, including children.
“Putin is a very evil man. A very evil man. If he can do this to Ukraine, he can go do this to other countries, and he already has.”
According to the Ukrainian Consul General Dmytro Kushneruk in San Francisco, 200,000 Ukrainian Americans live in California. Many, like Koch, are checking in on their family and friends still in the country.
“Americans woke up to the news this morning, but people [have been] telling friends and family who are in Ukraine to leave and stay safe. That was kind of happening already last night,” said Andrea Woroch.
Bakersfield resident, Andrea Woroch is a second-generation Ukrainian American. She grew up with Ukrainian culture and is still very connected with what she calls a close-knit community.
“Seeing the love my grandparents have for their country and how devastated they were to leave and have to come to America in the first place. Knowing how hard for them to see, my heart wrenches. There’s a lot of fear and frustration, and I don’t think you have to be of Ukrainian heritage or have family there to feel that way. I mean innocent people are being hurt.”
Dmytro Kushneruk has been the Ukrainian Consul General in San Francisco for a year and half. He says what we’re experiencing now is worse than the last major conflict in Russia back in 2014.
“No one expected that there would be a real aggression, like the second world war.”
We did reach out to the Russian consulates in San Francisco to get their statements on this, but have not heard back at this time.