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Amid the conflict, the Billings family wants the community to keep Ukraine in mind



Billings, Montana – It has been over seven hundred days since Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, which sparked a full-scale military escalation. Since Yuliya Johnson was able to bring her mother Marina Petrusenko from Ukraine to Billings, it has been close to a year since she was allowed to do so.

Because the majority of the nation’s media outlets are covering the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the mother-daughter team is seeking to bring attention to the ongoing predicament that Ukraine is facing.

When compared to their hometown of Sumy, which is located approximately 6,000 miles away, the tranquil residence that the couple has in the middle of Billings is a striking difference.

“I have a lot of relatives from my dad’s side who live around Sumy. They report all the time, some people, they just continue to be in bomb shelters and they continue to be in basements,” Johnson said.

Even though she was aware that her nephews were fighting for their freedom, Petrusenko managed to avoid situations like these over a year ago.

“She prays about her nephews all the time. She feels that praying protects them. But in the same time, she hopes this war will be over pretty soon,” translated Johnson for Petrusenko.

Even though Ukraine has lost the majority of the attention of the world, Ukrainians such as Johnson and Petrusenko continue to endure hardship.

“We have memorial for him in our house ‘cuz it’s Ukrainian tradition,” Johnson said.

At that time, Johnson had just begun the process of bringing her father, Ijor, to Billings in the fall of last year.

“He was ready, I think. He helped with [the] army, he did his part. But he realized he wants to see his family as well,” said Johnson.

The unfortunate reality is that Ijor would never make it, as he passed away from a stroke shortly before he was reunited with his family.

“His papers were almost ready. We just waited till he turned 60, it was like two months before he turned 60. It was so close,” Johnson said.

“He very [much] wanted to come here but she understands it’s life. God has his own plan. It’s hard to accept but she tries everyday just to keep him in her memories,” translated Johnson for Petrusenko.

They are hopeful that the violence will be stopped, not just for their own country but also for other countries.

“She understands now, a lot of plight on the Israel-Palestine War in conflict, but she just wants people to remember how hard in Ukraine it is, and remind senators and presidents that it’s still going on,” translated Johnson for Petrusenko.

“Sometimes, my friends ask me, is the war over? I’m like, no, I know it’s not in the media. In our world, if something’s not in the media, it kind of doesn’t happen. But just remember, it’s going on. It’s still going on. My wish is that it will be over as soon as possible. I strongly believe that we need to, and I know a lot of people oppose it, but we need negotiation. Yes, we need to have our territory, but we need to have this war over,” said Johnson.

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