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Russian-Ukrainian War: As over a million flee, thousands of Bay Area Ukrainians seek to return home to fight

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — It was a night of panic at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Thursday.

After being set on fire by Russian forces, parts of the plant, which is one of the largest nuclear centers in the world, caught fire, prompting Ukrainian officials to call for an immediate halt to fighting in the region in order to avert a possible global catastrophe. .

The news comes as war escalates in the Eastern European country.

The crisis has caused more than a million people to flee, seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

TAKE ACTION: Local and national support for Ukrainians

But while many are fleeing, others seek to take the opposite direction.

Yan Semenovskyi is a Ukrainian doing a medical residency here in the United States. He has been in San Francisco for a week.

“I was speechless and woke up drenched in sweat and the first thing that came to mind was to call all of my friends, all of my family to make sure everything was okay. Everyone be safe,” Semenovskyi said. .

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Semenovskyi says the last week of the war hit him hard. He is thousands of miles from home and feels unable to help his friends and family.

Now all that is about to change, as Semonovskyi says he will return to his native Ukraine to help repel the Russian invasion, hoping to use his medical training to serve his homeland.

“My profession is to heal people and bring them to life, so that’s my main goal,” he said.

With the country now a war zone, the 27-year-old says he is well aware of the risks but assures me he is not being deterred.

“Nobody wants to die. Everyone is afraid of death. But in this case, I don’t know, it’s like a moral duty,” Semenovskyi said.

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His family too, like millions of other Ukrainians, is doing its part to help the war effort.

Her sister delivers food to those who need it most. His grandfather builds a bunker to shelter from Russian bombs.

“And my grandmother is staying home right now and she made a few Molotov cocktails on her balcony. She used to feed the pigeons before,” Semenovskyi said.

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But Semenovskyi says it is more than himself or his country that is in danger if Ukraine loses this war.

“Right now they are trying to fight for the rights and for the freedom of everyone democratic,” he said.

Semenovskyi isn’t the only one interested in heading to Ukraine to help repel the Russian invasion. The Ukrainian consulate here in San Francisco says it has attracted the interest of hundreds of people.

Dmytro Kushneruk is the Attorney General for Ukraine in San Francisco.

He tells me that hundreds of Americans here in the Bay Area have also reached out, interested in going to Ukraine to help the war effort.

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“The number of those who called us or wrote emails and we managed to process their request is around 1,400 people,” Kushneruk said.

According to him, it was a decision that touched the hearts of Ukrainians all over the world.

“At first we were a bit surprised that there were so many people. Now we got used to it, now we understand that we feel this unity of the world,” Kushneruk said.

But with so much at stake and battling a vastly oversized Russian army, Semenovskyi believes the Ukrainians will eventually prevail, giving hope not only to their people, but to the world as well.

“Our people will never be defeated. They will never surrender,” Semenovskyi said.

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