When he heard the news, Anatoliy Mytnik couldn’t sleep.
Instead, he stayed glued to the TV in his Eden Prairie home, watching in horror from afar as his native country of Ukraine was being invaded by Russian forces.
“It’s like a nightmare,” Mytnik said Friday, still grappling to make sense of Russia’s attack on his homeland. “I couldn’t believe this if somebody told me. It’s really sad and painful for Ukraine.”
Born in Kyiv, Mytnik moved to the United States in 2010 and is now an American citizen.
“But I love two countries: United States and Ukraine,” said Mytnik, who has lived in Eden Prairie with his wife and son since 2016.
In the time since Russia began its invasion Thursday, Mytnik has spoken with family living in Ukraine, and “they’re in despair.” He’s also talked to friends who declared that they are armed and ready to defend Kyiv.
“I have a lot of friends who have nothing to do with the military,” he said. “They told me, ‘We are going to die for our country.’”
Mytnik strongly urges the U.S. government and its NATO allies do more to help Ukraine, calling Russia’s invasion a violation of all international laws.
His Ukrainian friends tell him they feel like the “West left us to fight alone with this dictator,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He said the conflict is not just between Russia and Ukraine, but between Russia and the civilized world.
“I know a lot of countries are united with Ukraine, support Ukraine,” he said. “Ask them to be more specific. It’s unbelievable (that Ukraine is being invaded). It’s the 21st Century. Ukraine is a sovereign country.”
He considers Ukraine a peaceful nation of free people who hunger for democracy. But, he thinks Putin is “offended that Ukrainians are free people and they can choose their own president and government.”
From Ukraine’s perspective, he said the U.S. is the cornerstone of democracy.
“That’s why people respect the United States, because the United States can help to solve the problem,” he said.
Mytnik is against war, nor does he want the conflict to escalate into World War III.
“But in this situation, we should act strongly,” he said of the U.S. “I like the fact that (President) Biden united all the European countries like a coalition. We can act more strong, more decisive.”
Alex Brusilovsky is originally from Odesa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. The lawyer has lived in Eden Prairie for 19 years and originally came to Minnesota 28 years ago.
His reaction Thursday night to the invasion of his homeland was outrage and sorrow.
“Outrage that this would be happening in the 21st Century,” he said. “Outrage that I thought we defeated Nazism in 1945, and look who’s sitting in the Kremlin now. The new Hitler.”
He was hoping Putin wouldn’t invade.
“(Putin’s) a nutcase,” he said. “That’s why I wasn’t surprised. He has had unchecked power for a couple decades and thinks that he can do whatever he wants.”
In a show of support for Ukraine and its people, several Minneapolis landmarks are lit up this weekend in blue and yellow, the colors of the country’s flag.
That includes U.S. Bank Stadium, Target Field, the Interstate 35W Bridge, and the Lowry Avenue Bridge.
To learn more about how to #StandWithUkraine locally or read previous stories written on past events, visit the Facebook page of the Ukrainian American Community Center in Minneapolis. The community center, which opened in 1964, is the primary Ukrainian American organization in the Twin Cities.
So far, people gathered holding signs and flags during a pro-Ukraine rally outside St. Constantine Ukrainian Catholic Church in Minneapolis on Thursday. A flashmob rally in support of Ukraine also took place Saturday night at the Lowry Bridge.