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Ukrainian residents living in Indiana fear for their friends and families as Russian troops move in

Olga and her family

Courtesy photo of Olga and her family (Steve Boles)

Olga Antonova moved to Zionville a month ago with her two children and husband because she was fearful of a full-fledged Russian invasion of Ukraine.

That began to look more likely Monday as Russian troops move into eastern Ukraine in what NATO calls "overt military action.”

Indianapolis ranks seventh in a list of cities in the United States with the largest Ukrainian populations. 

Antonova hopes it is possible to go back home when it is safer. Her family is from Zhytomyr, a town that is just 90 miles from Belarus, where Russia has troops stationed at the border. 

“[My younger child] is in middle school and the older one is in high school. They need to go back to their studies, and they need to go back to their classmates and their normal lives,” Antonova said. “If we stay longer, it will be very difficult, because there are my parents back there and my husband’s parents and my older son. Right now, we are in three different places, and it is difficult.”

There are roughly 19,000 Ukrainians  who live Indianapolis, which ranks seventh in the U.S. for cities with the largest Ukrainian populations. More than  a million Americans of Ukrainian descent currently live in the U.S., with about a third of them arriving after Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

Steve Boles, director of Mission to Ukraine, said for those in Ukraine, the possibility of a Russian invasion is not new.

“The first casualty of war is the truth. There is a lot of misinformation being put out on the media and on the internet. A lot of that is by the Russian bots and Russian propaganda,” Boles said. “The Ukrainians feel that cause they’re not sure if the world understands what’s been going on for eight years.”

An Indiana based group made up of Christian Ukrainians, Mission to Ukraine focuses its efforts on providing resources such as food, medical services and shelter for Ukrainian women, children and those with disabilities in the state of Indiana. 

Boles’ entire Mission to Ukraine team is based in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Most of the staff is still in Zhytomyr, with no plans to evacuate as of yet. 

The organization has started an emergency fundraiser to help their relatives and friends still in Ukraine. 

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