BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore's tight-knit Ukrainian community is on edge and concerned about the safety of loved ones impacted by the Russian invasion.
"It's hard to see a nation being so violated," John Wojtowycz told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. His parents came here from Ukraine decades ago, and he fought back tears talking about how the people of Ukraine are now fighting for the future of their country. "That's the spirit that will not be broken," he said.
Wojtowycz is a member of St. Michael Ukrainian Church in Eastern Baltimore, which has been holding prayer vigils.
His friend Steve Humeniuk read to Hellgren some of the texts he has received from relatives since the invasion began, discussing bombings nearby.
"I feel helpless. I feel like it's a horrible situation, Humeniuk said. "It's gut-wrenching."
Baltimore has been a sister city of Odesa, Ukraine since the 1970s. Karina Mandell heads that partnership.
She recently visited Ukraine and met with Odesa's mayor.
She also visited her own relatives. Now, she worries about what will happen to them and about an impending humanitarian crisis. "They're caught in the crosshairs," she said. "The innocent victims are sandwiched in the middle with little to no regard for their life."
Mandell shared a picture of a statue Ukraine planned to give to Baltimore to place along the water in Fells Point. She said plans are in the works for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott to have a call with Odesa's mayor on Friday. The mayor's office confirmed to WJZ they were working to make that happen.
Through it all, the Ukrainian community in Baltimore vowed to support their brothers and sisters who are under attack.
"It just feels like I'm holding my breath," Mandell said.
She also spoke about the uncertain future for her friends and family. "They're just trying to live hour by hour, day by day, and come at whatever is happening."
The Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore has opened a Ukraine Emergency Fund to provide support to Odesa and communities in Ukraine suffering from the conflict. Donations to the Ukraine Emergency Fund can be made at associated.org/Ukraine
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