Love, fear, and worry resonated in the air while Ukrainian Americans from Long Island patriotically sang for their native Ukraine, as a plea for the United States to take a stand in solidarity against Russia after the nation's invasion of Ukraine.
“It is time for you to raise your voice as well and fight back together with us,” Volodymyr Tsyalkovsky, a Ukrainian American from Great Neck said on Saturday outside the Killenworth mansion in Glen Cove as he, fellow Ukrainan Americans, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is running for governor, and Glen Cove Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck demanded that President Joe Biden expel the Russian diplomats from the compound that is used as a holiday retreat.
“We don’t need them here and let’s get this property back on the tax rolls, so the people of Nassau County and Glen Cove don’t have to finance thugs and dictators and people who invade innocent countries,” Blakeman said.
“To the people inside that compound, if you are watching us: I am your mayor, I am your neighbor, please do whatever you can to stop this mad man Putin from the actions he is taking,” Panzenbeck said. “It has gone too far. It can end now.”
Zeldin noted that precedent was set to possibly close the compound when former president Barack Obama seized Killenworth in 2016 as punishment for Russian interfering in that year's presidential election.
Though the U.S. has imposed several sanctions on Russia, Blakeman said blocking Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a global banking system, should be made to deny Russia the ability to transfer funds and operate their economy.
“If we do not stop the Russian aggression now, [it] will flow into NATO countries which we have a treaty obligation to fight,” Blakeman said. “If we do so, then American blood will be shed, so we have to stand firm and resolute.”
Zeldin added that the sanctions must be powerful enough to be a deterrent for Russia to not move forward. “I believe that Russia is now a state sponsor of terror with their actions,” Zeldin said. “I believe that Russia should be cut off with secondary sanctions on their banking system.”
A boycott of all Russian products was called forward by Blakeman and Zeldin. “Get rid of your Russian vodka. Do not do anything that would support the Russian economy,” Blakeman said.
“Instead of relying on adversaries abroad, we can use domestic energy production to reduce that reliance,” Zeldin said.
Diana Smykiv, a 15-year-old from Mineola, and Diana Shykula, a 16-year-old from Levittown, have family in Ukraine and are worried about their safety. “Our families are put in danger,” Shykula said.
Smykiv’s aunt and cousins have been able to flee to Poland, but her grandparents are unable to travel because they do not have passports. “It’s just so scary,” Smykiv said. “You can’t do anything but think about it because you’re so scared that one day you will wake up and find out that someone has died."
On Thursday night after hearing about the Russian bombings, Shykula immediately tried to contact her friends in Ukraine to find out if they were okay. She was the first to person to break the news to her friends about the attack in country’s capital Kyiv. “When I first found out, I was in pure shock,” Shykula said. “I was texting all of my friends in Ukraine, and it took them a while to get back to me and I was really scared.”
Olga Tsymbalysta, of Levittown, came to the United States from Ukraine in 2004. She still has family in the country and said she wants the war to stop. “They are regular people,” Tsymbalysta said. “It is not their fault. Sleepy Joe should do something about it and politicians should start talking. It needs to end.”
On Sunday, there will be a vigil in front of the gates of Killenworth mansion at 127 Dosoris Lane, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Participants are asked to bring no backpacks or coolers and to park at Glen Cove High School.
“Never has a conflict played out before our eyes quite like what we’ve seen over the past few days where average everyday Ukrainians have rose up to take courageous control of their destiny,” Zeldin said.
“We want the people of Ukraine to know, that here in Nassau County, we are behind you,” Blakeman said. “And it is also a message to our president that weakness invites danger and now is the time for America to be strong and to enact further sanctions."