BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — Russian forces continued their advance on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Friday as Ukrainian soldiers and citizens alike dig in for the resistance. Back here at home, Northeast Ohio’s large and well-connected Ukrainian community is doing as much as it can to help as much as it can.
Another vigil and prayer service for Ukraine is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church on State Road in Parma. Michael Dobronos II said he’ll be there.
“I have been a nervous wreck. I have been in tears most of the past few days. It’s hard to concentrate and get any work done,” Dobronos said. “I have been in constant calls with family in Ukraine. They don’t know what to do.”
As soon as you walk in the front door of Dobronos’ home in Brecksville, you’re greeted by a chipped, aged wooden box. Three more rest on a shelf above the foyer.
They are the family’s American dream in a box.
“It’s the main trunk that they had all of their belongings in when they came to America. That’s how they shipped it,” said Michael Dobronos I, the patriarch of the family. “They represent where we came from and where we are now. When [my parents] knew they were coming to America, they scrambled as much as they could in whatever they could and that’s what they made them out of.”
Dobronos was born in a labor camp in Austria and immigrated with his parents after World War II. He was 18 months old at the time. His wife made a similar journey at a young age.
“I make the joke but it’s true. I was my parent’s passport to come to America,” Dobronos said.
Both men said the events of the past week have been emotionally draining, especially considering the fact that more than 50 family members still live in Ukraine. While all of their extended family members have been accounted for, the Dobronoses fear what the future holds as Russian troops fan out over Ukraine.
“They are petrified. They’re scared. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to react. They don’t know where to go,” Dobronos II said. “The Ukrainian community has galvanized themselves to support peaceful ways to raise money for Ukraine.”
RELATED: Ukrainian refugees may turn to Northeast Ohio to escape war, continue cultural legacy