Olya Lebid Tucci feels helpless and frustrated watching from Maine as Ukraine is attacked and its people are gripped by fear.

In phone calls and online messages, Lebid Tucci hears and sees the terror and uncertainty her family and friends are feeling as the largest ground war in Europe since World War II moves in around them. They tell her about hiding with their children as the sounds of bombs fill the air and struggling with decisions about whether to flee or stay.

“I can’t believe here in the 21st century that this is happening. I don’t understand why nobody is helping Ukraine. We are on our own and it feels like we’re going to lose if we’re not helped,” said Lebid Tucci, who was raised in Cherkasy, Ukraine, and moved to Maine 19 years ago. She now lives in Saco.

Other Ukrainian-Americans in Maine say they, too, are frustrated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and worry for their loved ones in areas where the threat of bombings is ever-present. They struggle to understand why other countries are not stepping in to help Ukraine defend itself against a highly militarized country.

“It’s hard to watch the Western world turn its back on Ukraine and use it as a buffer between this evil empire and the West,” said Lesya Stasiv, an attorney who lives in Yarmouth and was raised in Lviv, Ukraine.

Lebid Tucci, a nursing student at the University of Southern Maine, has so far been able to stay in close contact with her sister, who lives in Kremenchuk with her husband and two young sons. The city has not been bombed yet, but people feel that could happen any time, she said Friday. Her sister does not want to leave Kremenchuk without her husband, who like all Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 to 60 must stay to fight.


“In their area, everybody is terrified. They opened up basements in schools so people who are scared can go there,” she said.

Stasiv was at home in Yarmouth last week when news reports indicated that Russian troops were advancing toward Kyiv. It was 4 a.m. there, but she immediately called her uncle in Kyiv to warn him of what was happening. His first instinct was to head out of the city to a nearby village, but decided to stay because it was not easy to move around as roads were blown up.

Her uncle said he was going to find an underground shelter instead. She did not hear from him for days, but got a call from him Saturday after a ballistic missile hit a 24-floor residential building in Kyiv. She called that a violation of international humanitarian law.

Lesya Stasiv of Yarmouth is worried about friends and family in Ukraine, and frustrated by the U.S. response. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Stasiv has been able to stay in closer contact with her parents, who still live in Lviv. Their home is older and has an underground storage area that they are preparing with food and supplies in case they need to seek shelter there. Lviv is taking in refugees from other cities and setting people up in hotels and shelters, she said.

“For now, they are staying calm,” she said. The entire situation has been heartbreaking to watch, she added.

Ukrainians are patriotic, strong-willed people who will not surrender and are willing to fight, Stasiv said. She finds it appalling that NATO has let this happen and that President Biden continues to say he will not send troops to Ukraine.


“Ukraine needs NATO troops to help stop this vicious, barbaric and unprovoked invasion,” she said.

When the bombing in Kyiv started Thursday morning, Olga Zhuravel Maselli of Dover-Foxcroft quickly saw messages from friends in the city who described waking up to the sounds of bombs. She scrambled to call her mother and brother, who live in the Poltava region in central Ukraine, where she was raised.

The region where her close family lives has not been attacked, but they worry about damage if the large reservoirs in the area are breached and flood homes. Maselli also worries about her other friends and family in other parts of the country, some of whom have been closer to areas attacked by bombs.

Maselli, who moved to Maine with her husband in 2011, finds herself constantly worrying and seeking out news about what is happening in Ukraine. But she also has faith in Ukrainians, who she says are strong and have been fighting for years to maintain their language, culture and independence.

“I believe we will win because we have a very strong will,” she said. “People are very surprised we didn’t surrender and are still fighting like tigers. It’s our land. We don’t want to leave it. We love our country.”

In the days since Russia invaded Ukraine, Lebid Tucci has heard from friends and other people she has not heard from in years who want to check in to see how she is doing. All of them, including Russian friends, condemn President Vladimir Putin’s actions.


“We’re praying for Ukraine, but there needs to be some concrete action. I wish there was something I could to that would guarantee action on the part of the United States and European Union to help Ukraine,” she said. “This should not be happening this day and age.”

A Waterville couple whose parents and grandparents are from Ukraine said they, too, cannot believe that Europe and the United States are sitting by as the slaughter occurs.  “It’s infuriating,” said Volodymyr Kurylo. “It’s going back to the Roman Empire, sitting in the Roman Colosseum watching the Ukrainian gladiators fighting the Russian bears.”

After decades of a tough struggle to gain independence from Russia, Ukraine finally became independent in 1991, Kurylo noted Saturday. The invasion “is devastating,” he added. “Every day is a fight for life.”

NATO should be involved in helping, and the United States should up the ante and supply more weapons for Ukraine, he said. “It’s time for special ops.”

In addition to her own Ukraine heritage, Kurylo’s wife, Adrianna Paliyenko, a Colby College professor, adopted three children from Ukraine. Her three children are now grown.

Unable to reach uncles, aunts and cousins in Ukraine and “standing on this side of the ocean, I feel utterly helpless,” Paliyenko said Saturday. “I feel disbelief, disgust. The one thing that gives me hope is the outpouring of support (from) people that have met me over the years who know my children. That makes me grateful.”

Heartbroken to see how people are suffering, she is nonetheless amazed “to see the resistance, the resilience of the people I come from. I am so proud.”

Paliyenko has no ill feelings for the Russian people. “It’s not their fault,” she said, but Putin’s.

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