The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are far-reaching worldwide, including in Poulsbo.
Serhii Didukh, 28, works at Hot Shots Java downtown, and he has been amazed at the support he and other local Ukrainians have been receiving.
“I was surprised how many people here have deep roots in Ukraine,” he said. “Some people who have lived through wartimes in different places, they understand what I feel. They understand what my family and friends go through.”
Didukh was happy to see the Ukrainian flag flying at City Hall, along with storefronts downtown that have painted that nation’s flag colors on their windows. He said some businesses are even selling items like stickers in support of Ukraine with proceeds going to affected organizations.
“It makes things a little warmer in the heart,” Didukh said. “I’m not saying I didn’t expect it, but it’s going way better than I thought.”
By spreading the word around Poulsbo about what his nation and family are going through, Didukh said some community members have contributed donations that he transfers to different Ukrainian locations.
“There are several organizations that work with the army and people so you can kind of pick who you want to support,” he said. “Mostly, everything goes to the army because Europe has sent so much food, clothes, and hygiene needs. The only thing we need at this point is more weapons to fight back.”
As of March 30, the United Nation’s human rights office says it has verified 1,179 civilian deaths in Ukraine in the war and 1,860 more have been wounded, according to Aljazeera. The true number of casualties is believed to be much higher.
As for his friends and family in Ukraine, Didukh said everyone is alive and OK. “I have friends in most of the Ukrainian regions. My family is all the way in the west. They are as fine as they can be in that space. Sleeping every night hearing the bombs and sirens going off, it’s definitely a lot of mental pressure.”
Many people Didukh knows in Ukraine are volunteering to help, including his father, whom he said is doing so as a “guerilla fighter. It’s technically under the army but it’s only local. They don’t go out to the frontlines. They stay local in the city,” he said. Additionally, his mother and stepfather are at home waiting things out.
Didukh said he stays in contact with family every few days through messages and video calls. He tries not to bother them too often because they need to be “alert and pay attention.” Once things settle down, he wants to visit. He hasn’t been there since moving to the United States in 2014.
While Russia may have only recently invaded, Didukh said the “war” between the two nations has been going on for eight years, just on a smaller scale. “A big-scale war like this, most of the Ukrainians who were up with the times realized it was going to happen sooner or later.”
He explained why Russia is invading Ukraine.
“Russians hate the existence of Ukrainians. It’s really deep in history from before Russia was even Russia. What happened back then, emperors and kings who were developing their country in the 1200s and 1300s, they were slowly taking our history and rewriting it. A lot of it just doesn’t add up.
“They don’t necessarily need a territory,” Didukh went on to say. “They are an extremely gigantic country after the USSR expansion. They have a lot of unused territory with a lot of natural resources. It’s not like they need our coal from eastern Ukraine or some of the natural gas down by the sea. They don’t like democratic people. They like people who are submissive … even if it’s an abusement, they’re OK with it.”
Didukh was born and raised in Lutsk, a city in western Ukraine near the borders of Poland and Belarus, where he lived until he was about 17.
“The ’90s was a pretty interesting time,” he recalled. “When the USSR broke down, Ukrainians mostly lost everything because of the economic system. Everything was taken to current Russia. People had nothing. They were starting to build from ground zero. For example, my parents were going to Belarus to buy clothes and go back to Ukraine to sell them. That’s how they started growing their own business.
“People were nice, kind and honest,” Didukh continued. “But a lot of them were still under the impression of old USSR. The older generation was a little different.”
Before Didukh moved out of Ukraine, the nation was going through the Maidan Uprising, a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest that began in 2013. He said he almost joined in the movement, which could have jeopardized any hopes he had of moving to the U.S.
“I had a lot of friends going that way, and I was eager to join it myself,” he said. “If I were to be put in jail by the old government in Ukraine, I would absolutely lose my visa. Joining the movement back in 2014 was a bit of a no-no for me.”
In 2014, Didukh moved to Jackson, Wyoming, where he ended up meeting his wife Dora while working at a restaurant. They lived there for about five years before settling in Poulsbo in 2020. They both work at Hot Shots Java.
“We love it there. We got to meet the community,” he said of Hot Shots. “That’s the best thing about it. You’re right there downtown. The company’s great. The people are great there. It makes it a little easier to transition into the states.”