UNF professor pleads for help for Ukrainians back home

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Here in Jacksonville local Ukrainians are watching in shock and fear as the conflict unfolds.

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Nataliya Roman has been teaching journalism at the University of North Florida for more than seven years.

When she saw tension between Russia and Ukraine escalating on the news, she knew she had to warn her brother and his family to get out of the capital fast.

“My family left Kyiv before this all started. They were lucky, they listened to what I said,” Roman said.

But Roman said her friends weren’t so fortunate.

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Many are hiding in bomb shelters in Kyiv with their children. They’ve been posting pictures on social media.

Before coming to the United States, Roman spent eight years as a reporter in Ukraine. She says the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been building for years.

“Putin does not want democracy, a democratic country, a successful democratic country on its border and it wants to show everyone who used to belong to the Soviet Union this is what happens to you if you rebel,” Roman said.

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Now she’s hoping the rest of the world watching these horrific images will help.

“Ukraine is the size of Texas and it has 40 million people, and they are fighting a country that has 180 million people and one of the strongest armies in the world,” Roman said.

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Roman has a one-year-old niece in Ukraine.

She was hoping this would finally be the year her niece and her daughter would meet.

“We were really hoping to go in the Spring and see them but unfortunately it might not happen,” she said.