Every Ukrainian American has a different story of why mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and grandfathers left a land they loved.
“My grandfather finished his school and was very famous,” said Olena Danyulyuk. “He and my grandmother were never a part of communist party, so that set a problem for them.”
For Danyulyuk, who works in Henry Ford Innovations for Henry Ford Health System, today is an important day in her culture. Yordan, the Theophany to end the Christmas season and celebrate the baptism of Christ, and today, she even remembers her own baptism in a place hostile to her family’s belief system.
“We couldn’t be baptized at home because Orthodox church was suppressed by Soviet Union, and all priests were killed,” Danyulyuk said. “It was only Russian Orthodox church who were allowed to practice, and you also had underground greek catholic Ukrainian church, so I was baptized under the secrecy of my mom and dad.”
And the threat of a return to that is what’s so deeply concerning.
“He wants to reunite and reconstruct the old Soviet Union back. He wants to increase his power, and he wants to bring all 50 republics under complete totalitarianism and recreate big Russian state. Creating a superpower.”
As Vladimir Putin stages 100-thousand troops at the border with Ukraine and clears out the embassy there, Danyulyuk is deeply worried about friends at the front, ready to defend a fragile, fledgling democracy. When she speaks to her friends still in Ukraine, “they are afraid, every single day when you talk to them we always say goodbye and see you soon, but I always have heart, and I just feel that something could happen to them every hour,” Danyulyuk said.