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Ukrainians in Sacramento left in fear, confusion after Russian invasion

News of Russia’s invasion has left many in Sacramento's Slavic communities worrying for their loved ones in Ukraine.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento is home to one of the largest Ukrainian populations in the U.S., and one of the largest Slavic communities as well. News of Russia’s invasion struck fear and confusion among many Wednesday night.

By some estimates, Sacramento is home to upwards of 100,000 Slavic immigrants. They primarily settled in the city’s northern and western suburbs in the late 1980s, with many coming from Ukraine.

Yuri Shimko came to the U.S. as a 6-year-old. Now, as part of Carmichael’s Ukrainian Christian Church, he's praying for peace after Russian forces began an invasion Wednesday night of his home country.

“It’s sad to hear that it’s happening to our own people, as a church, we’re praying for them. We’re thinking about them,” Shimko said.

Many of the churchgoers have strong ties in Ukraine. Vlad Skots, chairman of Ukrainian American House in Sacramento, has five brothers and his parents fearing for their safety in Ukraine.

He says the U.S. and allies must take swift action against Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions.

“A president from other country can easily violate international law (and) invade Ukraine. It just crazy moment and big tragedy for the whole world,” Skots said.

Meanwhile, editor-in-chief of Slavic Sacramento, Ruslan Gurzhiy, is keeping close communication with those on the ground in eastern Ukraine.

“They are saying real war is starting. It’s really shocking people are fleeing from those territories,” he said.

In Sacramento, he says people are at odds with each other over the issue.

“People are confused. People are fighting in comments with each other, arguing with each other, a lot of anger, a lot of fear, a lot of blaming each other. There’s a lot of division across our Slavic community in Northern California,” he said.

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