There is a large Ukrainian community in Southwest Florida. Many people have relatives in the country and are devastated by the war.
Anna Pokhdina Beach lives in Fort Myers, but her heart and soul are with her homeland Ukraine.
“That’s where I was born. That’s where my thoughts, my traditions, my values were formed,” said Beach.
Now the place where she was born is under attack. Russia has invaded Ukraine. For now, Beach can still talk to her dad, but she doesn’t know for how much longer. What her dad told her about what is happening in Ukraine scares her. “There are casualties all over Ukraine at the moment. So it just keeps coming in and coming in. So my dad said that they decided to go underground a little bit because he heard all the warplanes coming and shaking the apartment buildings,” said Beach.
WINK News asked Beach what she thinks the United States should do to help Ukraine. It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. “I don’t want any American soldiers to die on different soil. I’m going to say that. But I don’t know how else we can help Ukraine. I think we should send more weapons. I think we should help them every way possible,” Beach said.
There isn’t much time to act. Russia is a superpower. Ukraine is not. The county’s troops are brave, but the Russian forces outnumber them. Russia knows that, and so does the United States and the rest of the world. “I think if nobody intervenes that Putin will take over Ukraine in the next few days,” said Beach.
Beach said her country would not go down easy despite the overwhelming odds. Her family in Ukraine said they would fight till their last breath.
“They’re not like, only fighting for the freedoms, they are fighting for their existence,” said Nataliya Kovozeva, who is from Ukraine and lives in Lee County.
Kovozeva and Beach both have family in Ukraine. For Beach, it is her father. For Kovozeva, her brother. They watch the war from the safety of their homes in Southwest Florida, afraid for their loved ones’ lives. “They can hear all their missiles sound. They can see what’s going on,” said Kovozeva.
“He just wants to survive on live another day. I don’t think there’s much to say when people are in fear right now, right now they’re worried, are we going to live to the next day,” said Beach.
Being so far away from their family in Ukraine, they don’t know what they can do. “That’s why I’m crying. Because I feel that that very away from him. And I can really support him. I can physically, like say something that calms him. But I’m here, and I’m doing what I have to do,” Kovozeva said,
Ukraine is fighting the Russians alone. Kovozeva wrote a letter to our senators, begging for help she knows won’t come. “Fight for us. We are fighting bravely. But we need support, we need support,” said Kovozeva.
Russia may have the earthly advantage, but Ukraine is a spiritual nation. The pastor for the House Of Mercy in North Port is hoping that the power of prayer somehow overcomes military might.
Russian tanks flooded Ukraine and flooded Ukrainians’ hearts with fear here in Southwest Florida. “I was fasting almost all night. I was praying. I couldn’t sleep,” said House of Mercy Senior Pastor Viktor Antipov.
Late Wednesday night, Russia invaded Antipov’s homeland. He was born and raised in Ukraine. His sister and her family are still there. “They afraid. They’re really afraid,” Antipov said.
His brother-in-law is a Baptist pastor, just like Antipov. Only Antipov doesn’t have to worry about Russian soldiers walking in during a sermon. “We live every day like one day at a time so sometimes they show up in the service and watch and listen what we say and then leave,” said Antipov.
Forget watching and listening. Praying is what pastor Obadiah Chripczuk is doing now. For decades he helped build churches throughout Ukraine. “I have very close friends in east Ukraine. I have pastors very close pastors. He was visiting my church many times,” said Chripczuk.
When asked if he was worried, “Of course I am, of course, yeah,” said Chripczuk. “I am worried now because, during the 30 years of Ukrainian independence, we built so many churches in Ukraine, I’m afraid the churches will be converted again for mausoleums or deposits.”
Even though they are thousands of miles away, both pastors know the power of prayer. They say despite the odds, God’s will is undefeated. “I believe that prayer can do more than a weapon,” said Chripczuk.
“We are going to pray tonight. We’re going to pray. We ask for all communities to pray,” said Antipov.
The pastors ask everyone not only to pray but also rally. From 5 p.m until 6 p.m. on Friday, the Ukrainian community will be holding a rally in North Port at Biscayne Drive and US-41.