Thousands of miles away from the war Vladimir Putin is waging against Ukraine, people gathered to support the men and women fighting back against Russian forces – some saying their family and friends in Ukraine have picked up arms and are ready to fight.
Ukrainian-Americans in Metuchen, New Jersey, a New York City suburb, were clear: “we will not be underestimated.”
The “Stand With Ukraine” gathering took place on Sunday afternoon.
A passionate Anna Maria Kukuruza said her aunt is currently in Ukraine learning how to shoot a rifle to defend her country.
“Let me tell you about my aunt Olga. She is 69-years-old. She lives in Odessa. She has started learning how to triage inured people and shoot a rifle. Put yourself in that situation. Ukrainians’ liberty is being threatened, and we are valiant in our defense,” Kukuruza said. “Ukrainians will not be underestimated.”
Kukuruza said that her aunt Olga took lessons with friends on how to triage injured people about two weeks ago, when she began to fear an invasion was inevitable.
One young child with family in Ukraine held a sign reading, “Stop Putin. Stop War.”
Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24 during a television address, stating that “our confrontation with these [Ukrainian] forces is inevitable.”
The decision has caused over 100,000 people to flee the European country, but many still remain in Ukraine, where their lives are being threatened by Russian forces every day.
“Mom, dad, sister, in Ukraine – everyone is there. Every day we hope for our family that they are alive. It’s very hard to wake up every day and think what’s going on there,” Nadiya Demkiv said.
Alisa Zerkal, fighting back tears, told Fox News Digital she hasn’t slept in the past four days and wonders about her parents, “Are you alive?”
“All my friends – they are spending their nights in underground,” she added.
Kira Myskiw also had family in Ukraine, but they fled after missiles began to hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
“My niece is five and woke up to so-called fireworks. That’s when they knew it was bombs and missiles,” Kira said. “They had bags packed and ready to go, they started driving west, and they ended up in Croatia.”
“They had to drop everything and leave, or else they wouldn’t have been here,” Myskiw said.
For many families in Ukraine, a war with Russia means losing everything they’ve worked for.
Vira Popel has cousins in Western Ukraine and said that before the war began, they were beginning to support themselves. Now, it’s a different situation.
“I have cousins in western Ukraine… they are finally coming into their own of being able to support themselves, build home, you know just being in a better place,” Popel said. “Now this is … well they’ll be back to zero – if not less. A lot less.”