Concern for North Texans With Strong Ties to Ukraine Grows Amid Threat of Russian Invasion

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There is an understandable level of worry for Ukrainian Americans living here in North Texas unable to travel to Ukraine but staying in close contact with friends and family.

While Russia continues to build its military presence with over 100,000 troops near the border of Ukraine, 5,800 miles away in Dallas, Marta Petrash said she is calm but concerned about escalating tensions in the country where her mother and aunt still live.

“It’s hard,” Petrash said. “I also cannot travel right now to be with my family and be with my friends over there."

Petrash moved to Dallas in 1991, the same year Ukraine declared its independence from the former Soviet Union months before the communist government collapsed.

After moving to North Texas, Petrash became one of the earliest members of the Ukrainian American Society of Texas, which focuses on the preservation and celebration of Ukrainian culture.

Petrash said the latest headlines are not being digested in the same way in Ukraine, where tension with Russia has existed since Russian troops annexed Crimea, part of Ukraine, in 2014.

"It’s a worry to be more prepared probably, more ready," Petrash said.

On Friday, the U.S. government warned American citizens to leave Ukraine saying the latest intelligence indicates Russia could invade Ukraine in the coming days.

In response, the U.S. moved tanks and troops into Romania and Poland. The U.S. presence in both countries is only to support against potential Russian aggression of NATO allies.

The Biden administration has made it clear no U.S. troops will fight in Ukraine if Russia invades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he wants assurances that Ukraine will never join NATO, a demand that NATO allies reiterate is not up to Russia to decide.

Stephen Wegren, an SMU political science professor specializing in the political economy of Russia, maintains an invasion is not inevitable.

“Putin has little to gain and much to lose from an invasion because there are no plans for Ukraine to join NATO,” Wegren told NBC5.

Petrash agrees.

“It doesn’t make sense, this imminent invasion as some people suspect,” Petrash said.

Petrash said she feels solidarity with her friends and family in Ukraine, saying the country is resolute in the face of an aggressor, but hoping for a calming of tensions.

“This is democracy versus dictatorship,” Petrash said.

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