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'Will They Survive, Will They Not': Sacramento Ukrainians Worry About Family Amid Russian Airstrikes

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- Sacramento Ukrainians are waiting to hear from family members and friends in Ukraine through text or online updates, less than a day after Russia's continuing assault on Ukraine that President Biden called a "premeditated attack" on Thursday.

The Slavic community gathered outside the Capitol to rally for Ukraine in prayer and protest for more sanctions against Russia. In the crowd, dozens of people waited for texts, calls, and updates from their loved ones in Ukraine.

Slavak, a Ukrainian who did not want his last name shared, said the only members of his family who live in the U.S. with him are his wife and children. The rest of their family, including his mother-in-law and siblings are in Ukraine barricaded in their basements. They sent updates through text when they get service, he said.

"Right now, we don't know what's going to happen. Will they survive, will they not survive?" Slavak said. 

He stood outside the Capitol for hours before he was joined by dozens of others. He held a sign, printed within 24 hours of Russia's attack on Ukraine, that made his opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin clear.

"He's a killer. He's a murderer. He's a sick, sick individual. He's evil," said Slavak. 

Slavak, and others in the Slavic community, told CBS13 they haven't slept or eaten since the invasion begin.

"I'm tying to connect to this person to my friend and he's not answering, I don't know what to do," said Ruslan Gurzhiy, Editor in Chief of Slavic Sacramento.

The Slavic news website was created by Gurzhiy to provide reliable news to Sacramento's Slavic community of nearly 100,000 people. He has embedded with Ukraine's military as a Reporter and spent time on the ground during conflict. He said the images and videos he's seen out of Ukraine in the last 24 hours are like nothing he ever saw in person. It's worse.

"People did not believe it," said Gurzhiy, who spoke to CBS13 two weeks before the Russia's unprovoked invasion about the local Slavic community's response. Before the airstrikes began, Gurzhiy said the local community was split 50/50 between Russia and Ukraine, as to what should be done. When it changed Wednesday, so did the split with most "everyone" he said supportive of calls to send Russian troops back to Russia and out of Ukraine.

Nonprofit groups like Nova Ukraine, which is based in the Bay Area, are working with people on the frontlines in Ukraine to provide necessities. Medication, diapers, water and formula are top of the list of needs, according to Co-Chairman Nick Bilogorskiy.

"It makes it more important and gives us more urgency, agency, it makes us feel like we have to prioritize even higher," said Bilogorskiy. 

He said monetary donations are easiest to get to Ukraine, right now, because Ukraine's infrastructure is currently "broken." He said they are able to transfer money to local contacts to buy the necessities, especially for children who have been evacuated from the frontlines.

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