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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    Ukrainian American veterans sit with Courtney on eve of second anniversary of Russian invasion

    Ukrainian Americans listen to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, left, during a sit down Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The sit down took place in Courtney’s office in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, talks with Ukrainian American Veterans after their sit down together ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The sit down took place in Courtney’s office in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, listens while Nadiya Ivantsiv, right, from Lviv, Ukraine, residing in in the United States, speaks in Ukrainian about her relatives in Ukraine. Myron Melnyk, second from left, later translated what Ivantsiv had to say. Courtney held a sit down with Ukrainian Americans ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The sit down took place in Courtney’s office in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich ― U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney on Friday sat down at his district office with Ukrainian-American veterans he credited with successfully advocating for their home country amid declining levels of support in Congress.

    The sit down came on the eve of the second anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

    Courtney said members of Ukrainian American Veterans posts in Hartford, New Haven and New Britain originated a provision in the most recent National Defense Authorization Act to prepare doctors in Ukraine to better deal with brain trauma that has become a signature wound in 21st century conflicts.

    The measure, passed in late 2023, requires the Secretary of Defense to partner with the Ukrainian government to establish a joint program on military trauma focused on traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.

    “You didn’t have a lobbyist. You didn’t have a SuperPAC,” Courtney said. “You just had an idea that made absolute common sense.”

    Ihor Rudko, of Colchester, is the commander of Ukrainian American Veterans Post 14 in Hartford. He said the group took a trip to Ukraine in 2018 for a veterans forum where they learned about the challenges being faced in the bloody conflict since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.

    “We kind of picked up and learned some of the needs the veterans were facing and what their challenges are with suicide, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and also some of the wounds that they carry,” he said.

    Carl Harvey, of the New Haven-based Ukrainian American Veterans Post 33, said the organization has sent 11 shipments with almost $8 million in medical supplies and humanitarian aid over the past two years.

    Dr. Andrey Zinchuk, vice president of the nonprofit Doctors United for Ukraine organization and an assistant professor of medicine at Yale University, said the important thing now is to ensure the new law “translates into meaningful action.”

    The humanitarian group composed of Yale faculty, staff and students has raised over $1.1 million for medical aid. The team has trained 24 Ukrainian psychologists on acute trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in Warsaw, Poland, as part of its focus on mental health for civilians and members of the military.

    Zinchuk, whose wife was born and raised in Mystic, traveled regularly with his family to the Ukrainian city of Lviv before the war. Others in the room Friday had ties to the city as well.

    Zinchuk acknowledged the importance of working with groups like the Ukrainian American Veterans and other advocates.

    “There certainly is an opportunity to create an interchange of ideas, but also of resources,” he said.

    Nadiya Ivantsiv, of New Haven, through a translator said she has children and grandchildren in Lviv, which has sustained periodic rocket attacks. That’s where the impact of a rocket strike a mile away once shattered the windows of her family members’ apartment.

    Ukrainian American Veterans Post 14 member Paul Bzowyckyj, of Tolland, said the situation illustrates the strength of Russia’s weaponry.

    “A mile away, it broke glass,” he said.

    The advocates called for an emergency security spending bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that Courtney’s office said includes $60.6 billion in aid to Ukraine.

    According to the Associated Press, the measure was approved by the Senate last week but has stalled in the House amid resistance from Republican Speaker Mike Johnson and others in the party aligned with presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

    The measure includes nearly $14 billion for Ukraine to rearm itself through the purchase of weapons and munitions, $15 billion for support services such as military training and intelligence sharing, almost $10 billion to help the government and private sector. The rest would help the U.S. military replenish the stockpile of weapons that has gone to Ukraine.

    Courtney emphasized a third of the funding goes toward manufacturing new equipment in the United States and replenishing the U.S. stockpile of munitions.

    “Those resources go into the U.S. industrial base,” he said. “It’s not like we’re writing a big check and sending it overseas.”

    Courtney and the Ukrainian American veterans reiterated time is of the essence.

    “We’re in a pretty critical moment right now,” Courtney said. “Putin is definitely trying to capitalize on what he sees as a potential weakness in terms of logistical support that Ukraine needs right now.”

    e.regan@theday.com

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