From homes in the Northwest, Ukrainian-Americans watch Russia’s invasion with anger and anxiety

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB)
Feb. 25, 2022 1 p.m.

For Pacific Northwest residents with ties to Ukraine, this week’s headlines have been more than alarming. Russia’s full-scale attack of previously unoccupied Ukrainian territory by air, land and sea is an attack on their ancestral homeland and, for many people, a threat to friends and family members as well.

Tatiana Terdal, a board member with the Ukrainian American Cultural Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, said she slept only two or three hours from Wednesday night into Thursday as she watched the Vladimir Putin-instigated attacks unfold on television and online. She’s been reaching out to loved ones who are trying to avoid the violence, and connecting by phone and social media to supporters in the U.S. And she’s been reflecting on Eastern Europe’s experiences through World War II, and lessons that feel especially relevant today.


Terdal joined OPB’s Dave Miller on Think Out Loud to share her thoughts and concerns — and her wishes for more forceful action from the U.S. Here are highlights from their conversation:

Dave Miller: How much information have you been able to get directly from friends or family that you know in Ukraine?

Tatiana Terdal: I’ve been in connection with my high school classmate, and she’s been showing me the views of explosions, videos from what she sees. She is right now about 2 kilometers away from evacuation zone. So far, she’s staying in her apartment with her disabled son. But other people are evacuating.

So some people we were able to reach, and I’m hearing from friends here in Oregon about whether they can reach their relatives and friends and what’s going on with them, but from others we have not heard yet.

A woman holds her daughter as they sit at a basement used as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and tanks from multiple directions in a move that could rewrite the world's geopolitical landscape.

A woman holds her daughter as they sit at a basement used as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and tanks from multiple directions in a move that could rewrite the world's geopolitical landscape.

Emilio Morenatti / AP

Miller: How much fear do you have that communication will be one of the things that is broken down, and that you won’t be able to actually get information about what’s happening directly from friends or loved ones?

Terdal: It can happen any minute. So yes, it’s very strong possibility.

Miller: I mentioned that the U.S. and other countries have now imposed sanctions, serious economic sanctions, on Russia. What do you make of these sanctions?

Terdal: The U.S. knew that this may be happening at any moment. So I’m surprised the sanctions were not ready the moment Russia attacked. There are some sanctions that I don’t see on the list that I would like to see. Designating Russia a state sponsor of terror I think would have been a very strong immediate sanction that can have immediate effect.

Miller: What more would you like to see?

Terdal: Designating Russia state sponsor of terror would be strong. Another thing is switching Russia off from SWIFT, which is the main global network that allows financial institutions to send and receive information on international bank transfers, basically crippling it financially.

Miller: At [President Joe Biden’s] press conference today, when asked directly about that, it seemed that perhaps European partners are not on board with that at this moment. Reading between the lines, it seemed that that was what the president was saying.

Terdal: Yes. And it’s not a surprise that some European partners do not want to punish Russia, because they may share the same fascist viewpoints as Russia. And that’s very unfortunate.


But they don’t realize that their country’s maybe next, because that’s what happened in 1939. The Nazis first attacked Poland and then they went to other European democracies and then they also attacked their Soviet allies. Because, remember, the invasion of Poland started as a joint Nazi and Soviet invasion in 1939, and then Nazis attacked their former allies, Soviets, in 1941. So not presenting a united front to this invader right now may cost Europeans in the future.

Miller: I’m curious if you have been in contact with Russian friends in the U.S. in the last 24 hours and, if so, what you’ve heard from them about Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine?

Terdal: Some of my Russian friends just change the [Facebook] pictures to add Ukrainian flag. So that’s just a very, very open and obvious support and, you know, I’ll go say, “thank you.” And so all my feed right now is Ukrainian flags, including relatives in Norway and my Russian friends in Portland. We also have many Russian speakers who, I don’t even know ethnicity or where they were born, but they are also changing their avatars to add the Ukrainian flag. And all I can say is thank you.

We’re getting, as a community, many messages of support, including from ecumenical ministries. I just listened to voicemail from Congressman Blumenauer’s office. We can’t respond to everybody, but we’re really thankful and really appreciate your support. So yeah, thank you.

Miller: It’s one thing for people to change their avatar, change the picture on social media or to leave messages of support for you or to send you notes of encouragement. What do you think people in the U.S. broadly, or in the Northwest, can actually be doing right now that would be productive or truly helpful?

Terdal: Sending Ukraine weapons to defend themselves.

I mean, right now Ukraine is fighting the invasion alone. And the same happened to Poland in 1939. And if Poland was attacked just on one side, maybe it could have withstood just the Nazis. But when it was invaded first September 1st by the Nazis from the west and then September 17th from the Soviets from the east, it just could not, alone, resist all of that overwhelming force.

So right now Ukrainians are actually putting up a good fight, but they may be running out of ammunition. They may be running out of weapons.

I see calls now from Ukrainian volunteers for blood donations. And I see here local Ukrainians saying, “I wish I could donate blood how we can do that?”

But you know, Ukraine will need support, definitely financial and also definitely additional supplies or weapons, because right now they are being attacked with full force of the Russian military and being attacked from three sides.

That’s that’s another scary thing. They have been attacked from the north from the territory of Belarus. There have been attacked from the east from the Russian occupied territories in eastern Ukraine and they’re being attacked from the south from the Russian occupied Crimea.

And remember, Russia is a much bigger country than Ukraine and a much more populous country, with a bigger military. So Ukraine really needs a strong defensive weapons support and financial support.

And we’re grateful for Poland to opening its border for Ukrainian refugees. That’s wonderful. But they also need to be protected while they’re even evacuating, because there are now Russian tanks in Ukrainian cities.

Miller: Tatiana Terdal, thank you for joining us at a very difficult time. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Terdal: Thank you. I appreciate it too.

Click play, below, to listen to the full conversation: