Home Consulate Ukraine-Russia border crisis: Philadelphia-area members of the Ukrainian-Russian community fear an attack is near

Ukraine-Russia border crisis: Philadelphia-area members of the Ukrainian-Russian community fear an attack is near

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PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — As he loads green grocery bags into his car, Taras Grosh is particularly excited about two of the items he takes home.

“These are the things I had when I was a kid,” he said, holding up two prepackaged vanilla ice cream cones made by a company in his native Ukraine.

Grosh was born there and came to the United States when he was seven years old.

Bell’s Market on Bustleton Avenue is one of the few places he can find sweets since the store caters to Ukrainian and Russian residents. Northeast Philadelphia is home to a large population of both.

The region’s international influence is also a reason why so many are invested in what is happening as Russian troops continue to position themselves along Ukraine’s borders.

“I still have grandparents who are in Ukraine,” Grosh said, adding that they live in the center of the country but are so used to threats from Russia that they continue with their daily lives. He worries about the Ukrainian troops.

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“When Putin took over Crimea, I thought what would be the next step? He wants more and more,” Grosh said.

This is a concern shared by David Davudov even though he comes from Russia.

“It’s something, a political game. A big game,” he said. “I do not like it.”

The Philadelphia Honorary Consulate in Ukraine is even affected by the rapidly evolving situation, which has seen tensions escalate over the past two days.

“When I wake up, I’m afraid to open news,” said Iryna Mazur, honorary consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia.

The concern is only heightened by the support Ukrainian Americans have received from members of the local Russian community.

Mazur says Philadelphia council member David Oh recently hosted an event that brought together people from a number of Eastern European countries as tensions with Russia mount.

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“Any reasonable person, no matter where they come from, realizes that what the Russian government is doing is actually inhumane,” Mazur said.

Under threat from Russian forces for eight years, she says the Ukrainians are ready to fight.

“Ukrainians are ready and able to defend their land,” she said.

They just hope it doesn’t come to that.

“In fact, I fully support all diplomatic negotiations,” Mazur said.

It’s the kind of hope that keeps people coming to the Universal Travel office, which isn’t far from Bell’s Market. The company serves as a travel agency as well as a place where people can ship goods to countries like Ukraine and Russia.

On Wednesday afternoon, a woman came to ship a large box, saying it was filled with clothes and shoes for her family in Russia.

At the same time, Victor Makshyshyn from Ukraine was sending money to his grandmother who lives in western Ukraine.

“She’s a little nervous, but she’s fine,” he said.

Signs inside the company are printed in Ukrainian and Russian, as the agency is helping the few people trying to get to those areas right now.

Russian President Vladimir Putin insists some troops are moving away from the Ukrainian border

“You can never believe anything said by the Russian government,” Mazur said.

Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, is among lawmakers who have introduced a bill calling for sanctions against Russia at this time.

On Sunday, busloads of people will travel from Philadelphia to Washington, DC to show their support for the legislation and for Ukraine.

The United States is warning that Russia could invade Ukraine any day, but President Joe Biden has said a diplomatic solution is still on the table.

It’s something Grosh hopes will happen instead of an invasion.

“Too many times Russia and Putin threatened and threatened, trying to flex their muscles,” he said. “I’m just fed up and fed up.”

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