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Ukrainian Americans watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfold from afar

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New York City is home to one of the largest Ukrainian communities in the U.S. There's also a significant number of Russians there. So the war happening in Ukraine is personal for many of them. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has the story.

(CROSSTALK)

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: In the early hours of a cold morning, Jason Birchard opened up shop in the East Village. Veselka is a landmark Ukrainian restaurant specializing in pierogies and borscht. But last Thursday was not like other dates, not for his Ukrainian employees.

JASON BIRCHARD: I have multiple staff members that have immediate family there. And they're saying, you know, why is nobody helping us?

GARSD: Birchard, himself a Ukrainian American, is worried.

BIRCHARD: I think this is an attack on the world and on democracy. I think we need to make a strong stand globally.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in Ukrainian).

GARSD: Further up in Manhattan, in front of the permanent mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, a crowd of Ukrainians gathered in protest, singing the national anthem.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in Ukrainian).

GARSD: Igor Chernick (ph) is a first-generation American. He says he's also here to demand action from the American government.

IGOR CHERNICK: I think the U.S. has to really put diplomatic pressure at this point and really slam them with the sanctions. I think it's been done too late.

GARSD: Tara Scroll (ph) has lived in the U.S. for over 30 years. And he says he has many Russian friends. But he's heard that they haven't acknowledged the gravity of what's happening.

TARA SCROLL: Some of them silent. None feel responsible for what's happening. But in one way or another, they supported Russian chauvinists.

GARSD: It's a bit more complicated than this. Twenty-some miles south from here, Brighton Beach is a hub of Russian culture. Daria Martyshina (ph), a Russian living in New York, says she's horrified at the invasion of Ukraine. She says few will be untouched by this.

DARIA MARTYSHINA: It affects regular people who has regular life. And it's going to affect us, as Russians. It's going to affect Ukrainians. We're going to struggle a lot. It's like the politics has nothing to do with the people who live, actually, in Russia.

GARSD: But there's also many out here who didn't want to go on record for fear of political ramifications. But they believe the attack was warranted. Ukraine, they say, has historically been part of Russia. Putin did the right thing. And that sentiment has created bitterness for some in the Ukrainian community. Tara Scrolls says something in him snapped after the invasion.

SCROLL: First time in my life I felt hate, actually. Hate is the feeling right now.

GARSD: He clenches his jaw and looks away. He's just never felt this way before.

Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF PUKKS' "YEPPURS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.