Ukrainians in the diaspora urge the West to do more to help

Ukrainians in the diaspora urge the West to do more to help
Ukrainians in the diaspora are grateful for the world's compassion, but they would like to see more done at the foreign policy level to deter Putin.
4 min read
Washington, D.C.
26 February, 2022
Ukrainians fleeing war (Getty)

When Lubomyr Luciuk walks into his office every morning, the first thing he sees is the battered suitcase that his parents brought from Ukraine as World War II refugees. For him, is a symbol of a better life.

In the decades since then, he has seen his family’s country of origin become a pleasant place to live and visit. As recently as a few months ago, he was thinking of buying an apartment in Kyiv to live there in retirement.

He would also often recommend to friends Kyiv as a travel destination, for its bars, nightlife and scenery, not unlike Prague or Budapest.

Now, with the ongoing Russian invasion, he says Europe will never be the same again.

“There’s a whole generation that grew up after independence. Now they’re being left alone to a fascist that’s invading their country,” Luciuk, a professor of politics and economics at the Royal Military College of Canada, told The New Arab.

“For Europe, it’s never going to be the same. Like 9/11, this is going to change the world in the same way. The Europe that people grew up in is going to be gone. When the war ends, no matter when, there will be a whole nation of people who will ask, where was the West?”

There appears to be a similar sentiment among the Ukrainian diaspora around the world, as they stage demonstrations in major cities, demanding that their leaders do more to deter the Russian invasion of their country. 

When Putin began amassing troops along the Ukrainian border, it was only a matter time that he would try to overtake the entire country, something that might have sounded implausible just six months ago, but not to those who are familiar of Ukraine’s long history of struggling for independence, as well Putin’s continued irridentist feelings toward Ukraine since he came to power around the time of its independence.

In the US, some of the biggest demonstrations have been in Washington, DC in front of the White House and the Russian embassy. Among the demands are harsher sanctions on Russia and suspending Russia’s access to SWIFT, the international bank transfer service.

“People ask a lot: Are you angry?” Yaro Hetman, an event organiser with United Help Ukraine, told TNA. “I’m not in mourning. I’m in a mobilising mode. I’m not saying I’m not saddened. The focus should be on what we can do.”

He said, “Our biggest request of Biden is to take immediate action. Cut off Russia from the SWIFT payment system. We’re organising people to write to the White House. We jokingly say: Call your dentist or your chiropractor. We want anyone who cares to talk to their friends and family. Politicians need to know that a lot of people care.”

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Much of their work appears to be paying off. With regular demonstrations (with the participation of many non-Ukrainians) and news non-stop coverage, NGOs are reporting high levels of contributions. Still, for them, the real payoff will be when Putin withdraws his troops from Ukraine.

“We’re afraid Russia will take over entire country,” Maryna Baydyuk, president of president of United Help Ukraine, told TNA.

“They can’t just march into an independent sovereign country. We have to stand up. We can’t let Putin come in and take over. Something needs to be done now,” she said.

Looking back at his own family’s history of leaving Ukraine, Luciuk says he is saddened to see present-day refugees fleeing their homes for safety.

“These people shouldn’t be leaving Ukraine. There shouldn’t be refugees,” he said. “The world is standing by and saying: too bad. Ukrainians don’t have a few months. Right now, Ukrainians are dying.”

He worries about what a Russian takeover of Ukraine means for the future of sovereign states in eastern Europe.

“How would you feel if you were living in tiny Estonia? If I were in one of those eastern European countries in NATO, I’d be worried. Ukraine is at the front door. If front door gets kicked in, then what?”