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Ukrainian family in Montana anxiously watching Russian invasion

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Posted at 8:51 AM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 12:27:50-05

BILLINGS — Mother and daughter Olena Henley and Alyona Shvets immigrated from Ukraine to Billings in 2005.

Their entire family is still in Ukraine, currently living through the Russian invasion.

“They’ve never lived through anything like this. We never would have expected this from Russia,” Shvets said from her home.

Their family lives in the western part of Ukraine, in Khmelnytskyi and Starokonstantinov.

“My grandparents, my dad, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, everyone is over there,” Shvets said.

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Mother and daughter Olena Henley and Alyona Shvets immigrated from Ukraine to Montana in 2005.

Shvets' relatives have experienced the Russian invasion first hand.

“One of the airstrikes hit our home town of Starokonstantinov because it has a military base, one of the biggest military bases in Ukraine,” Shvets said.

The attacks are literally hitting the family close to home.

“We are definitely worried, and our families are scared,” Shvets said.

For Shvets' mother, the news of the invasion is still fresh.

“I went through all kinds of stages: stress, cry, proud. I mean everything,” Henley said.

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The family of Olena Henley and Alyona Shvets live in Western Ukraine.

The mother-daughter duo has been in contact with family since the invasion began.

“We are trying to stay in touch with our loved ones and we’re also staying in touch with our community here and just bringing the support, whether it’s here or halfway across the world,” Shvets said.

Despite the circumstances, the rest of the family is safe and gearing up for what’s next.

“My Ukrainian people, they’re warriors, and they are really strong. And they’re united and they’re going to fight to the end,” Henley said.

Henley says that though men are being drafted to fight, many are volunteering to protect their country.

APTOPIX Ukraine Invasion
View of a building damaged following a rocket attack the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

“I mean if it’s time to stand up for our country, then it’s time,” Henley said.

Many families are fleeing Ukraine for safety, but this family is staying put.

“Some people are leaving. No, they’re not leaving. They are staying. My mom said I’m not going to leave anywhere, I’m going to stay here,” Henley said.

Shvets says that this is a war that nearly everybody wanted to avoid.

“Ukrainians don’t want this war and neither do Russians. We do have some family in Moscow that my mother reached out to, and nobody wants this,” Shvets said.

Henley says that her people are ready for whatever happens.

“Our heroes are there. They’re ready. They’re waiting for them. Okay. Bring it on. Bring it on,” Henley said.