‘My Heart is Full of Sadness': Ukrainian Vodka Maker Lives in North Texas

Roman Talis, owner of Kruto Vodka, says his factories shut down after Russian invasion

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine is hitting especially close to home for a Frisco man who owns a Ukrainian vodka business.

"My heart is full of sadness,” said Roman Talis, owner of Kruto, which is made in Ukraine and sold around the world including Texas. "I could never have imagined that I would live to see what is happening to Ukraine."

Talis’ two factories in Ukraine are closed now as his 300 workers try to survive -- and fight.

"We don't know what's going to happen,” he said. “Right now bombs are falling everywhere."

Talis said American liquor businesses and restaurants have reached out to him to replace Russian vodka with his Ukrainian vodka.

He has a two-month supply, he said, adding he's more worried for his country than his company.

Talis has family still in Ukraine.

"We are all scared to lose somebody close,” he said. “It's not the movies. It's a real war."

Talis isn't sleeping much.

He's glued to the news and keeping in touch with loved ones all night -- daytime in Ukraine.

"It's a very sad last five days,” Talis said. "We are on the right side. We are defending our homes, our families, our childen, our grandchildren."

While we were talking, he got a phone call.

It was his cousin, Sergey Pustovit, whose wife and daughter are in a shelter, while he patrols the streets.

Pustovit told us heavy explosions hit near him just hours earlier.

"You can't explain the feeling,” Pustovit said. “You cannot explain what I felt."

We first met Talis in 2014, after Russia invaded Crimea.

Back then, he was optimistic about the future.

"Nobody wants bloodshed,” Talis said in March 2014. “And I don't think it will be. Because Russian and Ukrainian people are the same."

Now, he says, everything is suddenly different.

"Yes, I did say that. But now I'm not going to say that point."

Talis said he still has faith.

"I hope people, ordinary people, from both countries will hold hands together,” he said.

But for Talis, his company, and his country, the future is uncertain.

For now, his family and friends are still a phone call away.

He hung up the conversation with his cousin, not knowing when they would talk again.

"I told him openly I love him and to kiss his wife,” he said.

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