Dispatch from Ukraine: The Hutnyks of Lviv

Since several generations, the Hutnyk clan has been living in Lviv (Ukraine) Volodymyr Husnyk is mayor of the five villages that Oksana Hutnyk refers to. Oksana is a travel agent and lives with her husband, two daughters. Roman her brother owns an IT business and lives next to Oksana. 

With the Hutnyks, they spoke ReasonNancy Rommelmann is Nancy Rommelmann. Lviv on the groundThis video explains how Ukrainians aren’t ready to leave their homeland. They want to fight and stay. Family members urge the U.S. not to withdraw support from Ukraine to ensure that Putin’s influence doesn’t spread to Europe.

These transcripts are from interviews conducted with members of the Hutnyk clan. They have been edited to be clear, concise, and stylish.

Oksana Hutnyk (pictured with Viktoria), welcomed Rommelmann to her home with warm soup, coffee and cake.

Every night, my husband tells us to bring the children across the border and to make it to Poland. It’s not something I want. Everyone should protect their country. It is my homeland, my country, and my town. If  I were somewhere abroad and somebody bombed my house, my village, my Ukraine, I would go crazy. Psychologically, it is much easier to watch someone bomb that place than not.

We are currently preparing. [The children]These are alarming. Our elder daughter used to go to school everyday and help make military nets for our troops. She feels valued. Although our younger daughter is anxious, she doesn’t want to leave me. Although I suggested that they go to their relatives, she refused to leave them and return. My husband thinks that I am too… I don’t know how to say this: not good mother; that I am not worrying about my children. Although I know that they might bomb my city one day, it is not right now.

“[My friends]Most people have different reactions. Others are in Poland, Czech Republic. Some of them were there to help defend Kyiv. You don’t have to believe me. The people aren’t under attack [here]They try to be helpful. People help prepare food to refugees arriving from the centre and east. Even though it’s illegal, many of my friends are looking for weapons or protection from other countries. They bring the weapons across to Kyiv, either to pay money, or to take them over. 

“I did not support” [Zelenskyy]. Although he was an entertaining comedian, I could not take his jokes seriously. He is now someone I love. He’s undoubtedly the most successful president of Ukraine. He is a proud president. He is an American patriot, and is extremely strong. This is a joke in Ukraine: “Americans tried to rescue Zelenskyy, but Zelenskyy’s iron balls prevented the plane from taking off.”

Russians don’t really know what they do here. Nobody knows the real Putin. This is just one aspect. Next, Russians stole money over a lengthy period of time, telling people that they were investing in military equipment. Their weapons are very outdated. Thanks to Europe and the U.S., Ukrainians have modern weapons. While there are many Russian troops present in Ukraine I think the Ukrainians have more weapons and are better motivated.

Russia is experiencing a shift in its situation. The Russian people aren’t worried about Ukraine. But they worry about themselves. Their money is falling and cash is scarce. Russia is not America. You can’t use your debit card or phone to pay in Russia. The bank staff are told they will give cash to them if there is no long line. They say it has been delayed and then they repeat the same thing after two days. [Russians]They will end the conflict. However, it is not going to end well.

I don’t think people will be able to get rid of Putin. It’s something I believe, but it is my hope, that people get angry. According to his generals, he shouts at everybody now. That’s uncharacteristic. He doesn’t shout, he does not express his anger, but now he is. We may have angry people one side and Putin the other in two weeks. What is the difference between them? Putin speaks all the while about his red button. He wants to be afraid of everyone. While he may be angry with the Ukrainians, he seems to recognize that the West is scared of him. Because the U.S., Europe and other countries can’t help him, I believe he views the situation as the most important. He hopes that he’ll destroy all of Ukraine, and won’t be punished. 

Volodymyr Houtnyk greeting people at his office in the Council of Zymna Voda. Oksana was her translator.

Everything has changed since February 24, and everything is different now [the council]Helping refugees is our priority. There have been 455 refugee arrivals already. They are provided with food, shelter, and assistance to cross borders and travel to another country.

“[Putin]He is mentally ill and very dangerous. He is determined to become the greatest leader of the world and not just in Europe. He would like to be able to demonstrate that he is stronger than anyone else in the world. America ought not to fear him.

Russians invaded throughout history. They came from the East, and lived at the expense of the rest. They don’t even know what democracy means. It is like an empire of evil, and it should be destroyed. The Russian people should not be executed, but the system must be destroyed. With the help of civilized countries, Ukraine can stop the spread of this terrible evil. Air support is what we require, even though we don’t have troops from NATO. Make us stronger to defeat them with weapons. While we have some supplies available from overseas, more is needed.

“Putin brought such pain and no good to Ukraine, that the Ukrainian populace hates Russians.” They understand they are going to destroy everything. The people want democracy. They want to be able to work, earn normal incomes, and raise their families. Russian-speaking Ukrainians do not want Russians in their country. 

Putin isn’t afraid of the West; he believes you are powerless and indecisive. He allowed his troops and himself to enter our country. He wouldn’t have done it if he had been afraid of the U.S. He knows that the West won’t have any significant influence on the situation.

“We are grateful to the U.S. for their support. We also thank you for the sanctions and weapons. The Ukraine is our fight, and we don’t require anyone to help us. While we are willing to fight, please help us to get weapons. We need these today to defend our country.

Oksana’s older brother Roman Hutnyk manages his IT company from a luxurious home close to Oskana and her family. Roman also serves as a reserve officer.

They could be calling thousands and I might be one of them. There are many people who would like to help, and there is no shortage of volunteers. I’m a software developer. Since the beginning, I have been the one pushing buttons. It’s not that I know how to shoot. I am just inconsistent. What’s the point of being there? I think it’s more beneficial for me to remain here than to go out and volunteer in some other way. For the economy to move forward, it is important that businesses continue running. We were told by our government to just keep working. Keep doing what you are good at every day. The economy must keep moving. 

“[Americans]You must understand the fact that Russians cannot be trusted. They just attacked civilians and bombed their houses. You don’t have any honor. Every military has a code—things you can do and you can’t do. Truly, military personnel are in conflict with another military. This is not true. They’ll attack civilians, and then they’ll say “See?” Ukrainians attacking civilians. No. No. We are only protecting our land and our families. We will not attack Moscow or other countries.

“The propaganda destroyed the brains and minds of the Russian people. They believe they are cool, even though the toilets in their homes are not accessible to more than 70 percent. Yet, they believe they are a great nation. Don’t be so naive. You can’t do much with 200,000 troops in such an enormous country as your army. We lost many men, I was shocked. However, I think the Russians have a higher number. They run away from Ukrainians when they see them. We are now the most irritable people on the planet for them. This is something I love. Motivation plays a large part in our success. Russian soldiers do not know what they’re fighting for. They clearly know what their men are fighting for. It’s not my goal to be a fighter. At this point there’s no need to be afraid. You have to defend yourself and stand firm if they arrive.

“Some men my age went to Poland and left. Now, no one is respectful of them. Are you really leaving us now? You can send your spouse and children wherever you like. That’s fine. It’s our land. This is our land. I thought about it because I had clients in America, Austria and Britain. Most of these people were saying to me that they are open for you. This option is not available to us at this time. It’s possible to pack my children and spouse and travel to the U.S., but it is not something I want. My sisters, my parents and my grandparents are here. They are my sisters, my parents, then my in-laws and grandma. 

Putin’s current actions are clearly terrible. He helped the nation recover and unite long-term. We will be a different society after the war. Our nation will be a European country with European values, and we may join the E.U. Our president currently has the support of 90 percent. He is loved by the entire world, which I think is because he doesn’t have the qualifications of a diplomat or a politician. 

It is terrible to be at war with your country. It will also be the end for our country. [struggle]With Putin. For the next few generations they will all be Russians. It’s not something I want to know about you. Stay away. It’s okay. We need that. This gives us the chance to create a pleasant society. Be successful. Live like Germany, Poland, or any other country. We are doing a good job at proving we have the right to do that.