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Connecticut leaders mark one year since the start of the war in Ukraine

Dimitar Dilkoff
AFP / Getty Images
The roof of a destroyed church in the village of Bohorodychne, Donetsk region on Jan. 4, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Gov. Ned Lamont and other state leaders marked one year since the start of the war in Ukraine. They gathered at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain Thursday to discuss the state’s ongoing efforts to assist refugees in Connecticut.

Iryna Kundeus, cradling her 18-month-old baby Egunia, spoke in front of attendees at CCSU. But while her baby charmed the crowd, Kundeus wasn’t happy.

“We didn’t see our family for almost one year, and it’s really sad for me,” said Kundeus, who fled her native Ukraine shortly after Russia invaded her country in 2022. She and her daughter now live in Connecticut.

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public
Holding her 18-month-old baby Eugenia, Iryna Kundeus meets with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz during an event Feb. 23, 2023, at Central Connecticut State University marking one year since Russia invaded Ukraine.

But while Kundeus now lives far from a brutal war that has killed thousands, she still has a personal stake in the war. Members of her family are still in Ukraine.

State leaders, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, said they’ll continue advocating for Ukrainian refugees and asked for increased federal funding so that Ukraine could better resist the ongoing invasion.

Blumenthal advocated for more federal help as well, such as additional funding and supplying Ukraine’s military with F-16 fighter jets.

“We know what’s at stake, let’s make sure that we get them what they need to win this fight,” Blumenthal said.

Other officials, among them Andrea Barton Reeves, commissioner of the Department of Social Services, spoke about the state’s efforts to help Ukrainian refugees settle into Connecticut.

According to Barton Reeves, 1,000 families have been helped, and local school districts statewide have enrolled Ukrainian children.

The state would welcome Ukrainians as permanent residents, according to Barton Reeves.

“We hope that we can make you feel welcomed here until you can return home if that is indeed your desire,” Barton Reeves said. “If you decide to remain, we would love to have you in the state of Connecticut.”

Dimitar Dilkoff
AFP via Getty Images
An older local resident walks past a destroyed residential building in Chasiv Yar, Eastern Ukraine, on Jan. 7, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As artillery boomed outside and fighter jets flew overhead, Orthodox Christians in a battered east Ukraine town held a Christmas service in a basement shelter on Jan. 7, vowing not to let war ruin the holiday.

Frankie Graziano’s career in broadcast journalism continues to evolve.