CLEVELAND — The White House is warning a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen at any moment as Russian troops continue to build upon the border. The U.S. and it's NATO allies continue to weigh their options while threatening Russian President Vladimir Putin if he invades. Watching it all are members of Greater Cleveland's sizable Ukrainian community, one of the largest of any big city in the country.
"They came here when America was industrializing, they came here for jobs," said Andy Fedynsky, Director of the Ukrainian Museum Archives in Tremont. "Many of them thought that they would make some money, go back to the old country and buy land, and inevitably they put down roots here."
Many came after World War I and many, like Fedynsky's family, after World War II when Russia first took over Ukraine.
"When 10 million refugees throughout Europe were fleeing the communists," he said.
He took over the museum after his father who had run the place passed away years ago. It was created 70 years ago as a home to Ukrainian history and cultural artifacts that were being destroyed during the Soviet Union's control of the country.
"Scholars here in the west, and not just in Cleveland, said we have to preserve this because future generations won't know unless we preserve it," he said.
Preserving history, it is said, is often the best way to avoid repeating it, and the history the Ukrainian people today are hoping to not see repeat is the growing threat of a Russian invasion as Russian troops and hardware are being deployed to the areas around Ukraine's border. Vladimir Putin threatening a "military-technical response" in his words unless he gets a guarantee that Ukraine won't join NATO.
"This is a repeat of czarist policy which set up the Russian empire, obviously the Soviet Union and now Putin is trying to reconstitute that imperial legacy," he said.
Senator Rob Portman just returned from Ukraine Tuesday night and met with President Joe Biden Wednesday morning.
"We need to stand strong and unified in letting Vladimir Putin and Russia know that should there be another physical invasion of Ukraine that the consequences will be devastating," Portman said at a Capitol Hill news conference. One of those who joined him was U.S. Senator Roger Wicker who reminded his colleagues
"This is 40 million people who remember how it used to be not to be free and to be under the thumb of Soviet Russia," Wicker said. "They will fight."
Fedynsky, a formal Capitol Hill staffer is buoyed by the bi-partisan support he sees for Ukraine from Senators Portman and Brown and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. He said he is hoping Putin sees the same and stays out. A hope he shares for the good of the Ukrainian people and the Russian people as well.
"Russians, they aspire for freedom, for a better life for themselves but the people in power want to maintain their privileges," Fedynsky said.