Ukrainian New Yorkers hope for peace in homeland

Stepan Rogulskyi came to the United States from a small town in Western Ukraine 14 years ago in search of a better life. Today, he owns the five-star rated restaurant Varenyk House in Ridgewood, Queens. Rogulskyi's parents and grandparents remain overseas in a country on the brink of war.

"The biggest concern is there will be no smoke without fire, so something is going on, but nobody wants anything to happen," he said. 

City Council Member Inna Vernikov was also born in Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union. She emigrated to the United States with her family in 1996.

"It is very important for Ukrainians to be independent," she said. "They've worked hard for their independence and Ukraine is a sovereign country that should be able to align with whoever they want to align with." 

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Vernikov represents parts of Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach, known to many as Little Odessa due to the large, yet tight-knit Ukrainian population. She said while many local Ukrainian families are worried about their relatives, there seem to be mixed reactions across the board.

"Some of them are pretty concerned and some of them are not. They're not panicking, they are going on about their lives," Vernikov said. "They are ready, there have been shelters put in place just in case there's an invasion.

As tensions continue to mount in Ukraine, more airlines are limiting flights into the country.

Lufthansa has suspended all flights to the capital Kyiv and Odessa until at least the end of February.

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