South Florida Ukrainian community reacts, prays for peace following Russian invasion in Ukraine

HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida’s Ukrainian community is hoping for a peaceful resolution after watching Russia’s ruthless attack on their homeland.

South Florida took to the streets Thursday, to protest the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

“We all have friends, relatives and we have employees as well there, and everybody is devastated by what is going on,” said organizer Raphael Nagli.

As many woke up to the news and harrowing images overseas, they were stunned.

“All my friends are calling me with little babies in their hands, and they’re like, ‘What we should do? Where we should go?’” said organizer Karinka Moiseeva. 

Organizers said despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces gathering along Ukraine’s border recently, they never expected a full-on invasion.

“Lots of Russians live in Ukraine and vice versa, so nobody could expect brothers to basically turn against their brothers,” said Nagli. 

Hundreds showed up at Hallandale Beach City Hall calling for peace, so many who live in our community said the attack on Ukraine hit close to home.

Trying to hold back tears, Kateryna Ramirez is in North Miami Beach FaceTiming her dad in eastern Ukraine.

Ramirez has been keeping a close eye on the situation, watching on TV as Russian troops moved in across the border into her home country.

Her father Sergei tells her he can hear bombings from his living room. He, like so many, does not want to see a war.

“They are sitting down at the house. They can’t work, they can’t do anything, and he’s got lucky because of his age that he’s not taken to the war,” said Ramirez. 

“This is really scary,” said Olena Molodyko-Hamal. 

Molodyko-Hamal lives in Western Ukraine. She said the government there is recommending she, her husband and her 14-year-old daughter stay put for now.

“They say the safest places, for now, are flat. They recommend to have food and water with warm clothes,” said Molodyko-Hamal. 

Molodyko-Hamal said officials have told people in her area to prepare for refugees and be ready to leave if needed.

“We prepared these bags with clothes, all the documents. We have a car ready, just in case,” said Molodyko-Hamal. 

Whether in Ukraine or in South Florida, the message from many stays the same.

“Ukrainians want to live in peace,” said Molodyko-Hamal.

“People want peace. Nobody wants a war. Nobody has anything to gain from the war,” said Nagil. 

Organizers said they want the U.S. and other European countries to step in and help Ukraine.