Ukrainians in Taiwan anxious over family's safety

02/25/2022 12:52 PM
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Kyiv residents sheltering in a subway station. Photo: Anadolu Agency
Kyiv residents sheltering in a subway station. Photo: Anadolu Agency

Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Ukrainians in Taiwan have told CNA they are concerned for the safety of their family and friends in Ukraine after Russia invaded the eastern European country on Thursday.

Since Putin announced Russia would launch a "special military operation" during a televised address Thursday morning, Russian military units have attacked several cities in Ukraine and are reported to be closing in on its capital Kyiv, according to media reports from inside the country.

While Putin said the operation is to achieve the "demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine," the Ukrainian government has described it as a full-scale invasion.

Daria Zheng, who is from Vinnitsya in west-central Ukraine and has lived in Taiwan for over five years, said she cried when she saw the news and immediately tried to contact her family and friends.

"I feel quite desperate right now, because I don't know what I can do," said Zheng, who wished to be identified by her Chinese name.

"All those cities being hit by bombs and my friends and my family are just terrified because they don't have a place to hide and they don't know where they can go or what they can do."

According to the Associated Press' reports from Ukraine, Russian forces have carried out airstrikes on Ukrainian cities and military bases and have sent in troops and tanks from three sides. Thousands of civilians are reported to be sheltering underground, including in the capital's subway stations.

Zheng said she does not understand why there are still wars going on in the world.

"I want to know why the people have to fight. Why [don't] we put the presidents in the boxing ring and ask them to fight and see who is going to win. Why do our families and friends need to suffer?" Zheng said.

She said Russia's latest aggression was just an escalation of the conflict that started in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, then a Ukrainian territory.

"It is just because Ukraine is not doing what Russia wants, but the question [is], why does Ukraine need to listen to Russia?" Zheng asked.

Po Tai-li (寶戴麗), a Ukrainian postgraduate student at National Tsing Hua University who also wished to be identified by her Chinese name, said she is worried for her family but she is not overly panicking.

When asked if the conflict will affect her studies, Po said it will not be affected for now because even though Ukraine has passed a law to recruit women conscripts, it is still very new and the government does not have enough resources to call on all women across the country, let alone overseas students.

Oleksandr Yurkov, who has been in Taiwan for five years and is originally from Krivoy Rog, said he wasn't able to contact his father Thursday morning and this has made him very worried.

He believes that the conflict doesn't just threaten Ukraine but also the world because Russia has nuclear weapons.

Living in Taiwan for three years, Anton Mykytenko, who was born in Kherson, but migrated to Canada when he was six years old, said his father is of Ukrainian and Belarusian descent, while his mother is of Ukrainian and Russian heritage.

Mykytenko said there are similarities in the cultures of the countries in the region and that should be celebrated instead of something to go to war over.

"It would be more valuable if those were points of unity ... Unity in terms of our culture being similar and there is no denying that," Mykytenko said.

There is an estimated 210 Ukrainians who are living in Taiwan and are here for work or study, according to National Immigration Agency statistics issued at the end of Dec. 31, 2021.

(By William Yen, Ken Wang and Chen Chih-chung)

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Update

Feb. 25: Taiwan evacuates citizens from Kyiv by bus amid Ukraine crisis

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