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Local Ukrainian Reacts To Destruction Of His Hometown By Russian Military

Andriy Bezhulyy is a local Ukrainian immigrant originally from Kharkiv. His hometown has been under heavy attack by the Russian military, with much of the city reduced to rubble.
Andriy Bezhulyy
Andriy Bezhulyy is a local Ukrainian immigrant originally from Kharkiv. His hometown has been under heavy attack by the Russian military, with much of the city reduced to rubble.

Andriy Bezhulyy is a Ukrainian immigrant who has lived in Fort Wayne since 2015. He’s originally from Kharkiv, a city about 30 miles from the Russian border. The city has been under heavy attack this week by the Russian military, with much of it being reduced to just rubble. WBOI's Katy Anderson spoke with Bezhulyy to get his reactions to the attack on his hometown.

Katy Anderson: First of all I want to ask, how are you doing?

Andriy Bezhulyy: It's really tough to see my beautiful city, my beautiful hometown, being essentially reduced to rubble. It's important to note there, the center of the city actually survived Nazi invasion. So Nazis did less damage to Kharkiv than Russians are doing right now. When they started, they expected no resistance from Ukraine. They expect to be met with joy and flowers. What they got instead, is heroic. Just, I cannot even find an English word to describe heroic resistance.

Anderson: Do you still have a lot of family and friends who live there?

Bezuhlyy: Yes. Many of my family and friends lost their homes. Some of my family had to spend several nights in a bomb shelter, basically. The emotional toll it takes on people, just enormous. Some of my family and some of my friends have little children. And those little children occasionally ask their parents, "how many minutes till the war ends?" How do you answer a question like this?

Anderson: I read that Russian is the predominant language there and that it's very close to the Russian border. What's that relationship like between Ukrainians and Russians in that part of Ukraine?

Bezuhlyy: That's a great question. I spoke Russian for the most of my life. I am one of those Russian-speaking Ukrainians who Putin claims to be protecting. I don't need any protection. People like me do not need any protection from him. Many of my friends are Russian nationals who joined territorial defense forces in order to protect from Putin aggression. It is not a matter of nationality. It is not a matter of ethnicity anymore. It's so-called political nation. Meaning that if you adhere to certain values, then you can count yourself as Ukrainian national no matter what ethnicity you are. If you want freedom, if you do not want Russia to take that freedom away from you, then you are as Ukrainian as I am Ukrainian.

Anderson: Does this invasion feel real to you? Did you ever imagine that something like this could happen in your home country?

Bezuhlyy: Essentially, people lived in fear of the invasion to some degree since 2014. It's one thing to expect things like that to happen. It's another thing is to experience it. What Ukrainian people - in particular Ukrainian civilians - are going through is unspeakable. And don't get me wrong, there is no lack of will to fight in the Ukrainian army. But the Ukrainian army right now is fighting with outdated weapons. Their most modern plane in the Ukrainian Air Force is 30 years old. There are some planes that are 40 or even 60 years old, that Ukrainian pilots are flying to fight Russian aggression. The Ukrainian army is essentially fighting with Soviet-era weapons. Ukrainian people are very grateful for the sanctions that were imposed on Russia, they really are. But the effect of those sanctions will be felt in weeks, or maybe months. In those weeks and months, people will die. The only thing, the only way to prevent it is to supply Ukraine with a sufficient amount of modern weapons and ideally, Ukraine to have a no-fly zone imposed over its entire territory.

Anderson: Have you been able to connect with other local Ukrainians while this is happening?

Bezuhlyy: In trying times, there has been the unity among people that nobody has seen before. The unity in support of Ukraine is just enormous. It's... I cannot even describe.

Anderson: Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me today. Please take care and we'll be thinking of you and your loved ones.

Bezuhlyy: Thank you. I really appreciate this opportunity to deliver my point of view.