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Rally Held, As South Florida Residents Worry About Family, Friends Living In Ukraine

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - South Florida residents with family members in Ukraine are holding demonstrations and speaking about the invasion, saying their loved ones are doing their best to survive.

About 100 demonstrators gathered in Sunny Isles Friday evening to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Video images of a forlorn father crouching down, to face-to-face with his young daughter in pink, clutching hands, saying goodbye, maybe for the last time, as he abruptly heads off to war.

Oleg is asked, "Would you leave your daughter right now?" If I would be there, I would have to.

The same decision, ironically, Oleg's own father, Andrew, already made himself back in Ukraine near his home in Kyiv.

He told CBS News Miami, he'd rather die and do everything to protect his country.

Dad Andrew, former military himself, is a 54-year-old who voluntarily rejoined his old unit in the Border Patrol to face off against the Russian military might.

"He was definitely my idol and he's still is an idol for me."

Oleg, fully understanding a father's love for his child, crushed by the thought of what it would be like to say goodbye to his own 4-year-old daughter, prompting a most uncomfortable question.

What would you say to her? "I don't know (as he breaks down)," eliciting an equally uncomfortable answer.

Even at his most vulnerable, this Ukrainian soldier is thinking about all those at home -- and his friends -- who are all now forced into making some of the most difficult decisions of their lives.

"I have so many friends, their kids, it's a terrible situation."

Diana Khruslova of Hallandale Beach, told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "I have finally been able to reach my grandmothers, Maria, who is 70, and Tamara, who is 85. Maria was cooking to distract herself. They were hiding in a shelter and we initiated the call to reach Maria. She is trying to stay positive, but I am very scared."

"It is very hard for them to get used to bombs falling all the time and sirens going off and having to hide all the time. They are scared but they are staying positive because they have faith in the Ukrainian army. I am so worried. I want to hug them and hold them and I want to be near them."

Her grandmothers are in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city by the border with Russia where many are taking shelter in Metro stations.

Julia Lemesh, the President of the Ukraine Global Scholarship Foundation, said "This is something they don't want to be invaded like this. My father-in-law does not want to leave. Why should he? He is doing his best to protect his country."

Oksana Piaseckyj of Sunny Isles Beach, said, "My worry is that if they don't stop Putin he will destroy so many wonderful lives and magnificent buildings as well. My family members there including cousins in western Ukraine are concerned about what is happening and they are afraid for their lives and what the bombing is doing."

Her husband Peter Piasecky said, "We can not have a humanitarian disaster happening because of the bombing. We have 140 warthogs, anti-tank planes that have been in storage for some time here in this country. Let's give them to Ukraine today and they could be there in 12 hours."

Paul Galadza, the Deacon of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukranian Catholic Church, whose parents fled Ukraine in 1944, said "We are heartbroken to see all these people fleeing, brothers and sisters. There is that image of the father hugging his daughter before putting her on a train so he can stay behind to fight the Russians. Everyone's predictions were wrong. It looks like Putin will not stop until he gets what he wants."

Galadza said his church in Miami would be holding a special service at 7 p.m. Friday and then two services Sunday morning and will be having a demonstration after that around noon.

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