With family on front lines, local Ukrainians demand action amid Russian invasion: ‘Nobody expected war’

RIDGEFIELD — The military hospital in Yuliya Stadiychuk’s home city of Lviv, Ukraine is receiving injured soldiers every day, she said.

Her mother, Olena, is there “all the time,” treating Ukrainians and others who have mobilized to defend the country against Russian invaders.

“Nobody expected war,” she said.

Stadiychuk moved to the U.S. in September and settled in Ridgefield shortly after. Her friend Ruslana Sendetska is from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, but has called Brewster, N.Y., home for three years.

Two of Stadiychuk’s relatives fled to Poland because the war had become “quite dangerous,” she said. All of Sendetska’s family, however, are still in Ukraine. She says she’s been having trouble sleeping.

Her brother, Paulo Luitak, returned to Ukraine from the Czech Republic to join the army. Her 70-year-old father, Vasiliy Luitak, saw no other option but to stay.

“I was talking to him and he said, ‘where do I go? I don’t have anywhere to go,’” Sendetska said. “‘This is my country.’”

The women spoke with Hearst Connecticut Media as Ukraine entered its fourth week of war with Russia. Just a few days before, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Congress in an urgent appeal for more weapons to stem the invasion.

Both Stadiychuk and Sendetska support Zelensky’s pleas for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which he says would protect it and the alliance from Russian air attacks. Global leaders and NATO forces, however, have resisted these repeated calls.

Stadiychuk’s eyes brimmed with tears as she recalled seeing limp bodies being removed from bombed-out shelters in Ukraine on the news, noting that babies were among the dead.

Her voice stoke with anger when she discussed the recent bombing of a theater in Mariupol. The word “children” was spelled out on two sides of it, according to satellite images. She said the Russians had carried out the attack purposefully.

“On the ground, we are strong … and (the world) sees that, but we need help over the sky,” she added. “It’s very important right now.”

“I don’t think this war (will) stop in Ukraine,” Sendetska said. “It will spread all over the world … (unless) we close the sky.”

Stadiychuk is a receptionist at The Gift MedSpa on Main Street; a Ukrainian flag hangs outside. The business is donating 50 percent of the price of each facial toward humanitarian relief for Ukraine. Sendetska’s colleagues at Keller Williams Realty Partners in Baldwin Place, N.Y., also collected donations to send overseas.

Stadiychuk called these small shows of support a “win-win situation,” noting that actions speak louder than words.

“In my opinion, every local business here in Ridgefield can do something like that, which will actually support our country … against this aggression,” she said.

Both women noted the bravery Ukrainians have demonstrated in the face of this aggression — soldiers who dismantled a Russian missile with his bare hands, a man who knelt in front of an oncoming tank.

“Ukraine fights not only for its future and its freedom (but for) democracy worldwide,” Stadiychuk said.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com