Tampa Bay area Ukrainians dismayed by bloodshed back home - FOX 13 News

Tampa Bay area Ukrainians dismayed by bloodshed back home

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

As the violence in Ukraine escalates, so do the emotions of local Ukrainian-Americans.

"You can see the tears flowing from their eyes," said Father John Stevensky of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Petersburg.

The church sat quietly in the Florida sun as protestors were killed in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, by their own government.

Parishioners pray daily for an end to the bloodshed in their ancestral homeland.

The father is behind the protesters, who want the Ukraine to join the European Union in hopes of seeing an improved economy and a turn from Soviet-style rule.

"Our people are being tortured, murdered, suffering, there are thousands imprisoned," said Stevensky. "We want to enjoy the freedom that was granted since 1991."

One of the reasons the Ukrainian-American community here has such a strong connection to what's happening there are the frequent migrations that have happened between Ukraine and the United States.

Every age group here still has relatives living there.

"We want the same thing for them that we have here," said parishioner John Czerkas of St. Petersburg.

Czerkas, a Vietnam Veteran, has cousins in Ukraine and says it's devastating that after two decades, they're still caught between Russia and the west in a high-profile violent outburst.

"There are many Ukrainian veterans who served in the American Army. We understand what war is, we understand what death is, we hate to see anybody perish in that manner," he said.

He wants cooler heads and peace talks, right away.

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