SALT LAKE CITY — Ukrainians in Utah anxiously followed the news Thursday of Russia's invasion of their home country.
The images coming out of Ukraine have kept Salt Lake City resident Vlada Yaremenko glued to her phone as she has several family members who still live in the country.
"My father who actually is in the police force in Ukraine and my grandma, who lives there, my uncle and his whole family, my cousins," she said.
Yaremenko, who was born and raised in Kamianske until moving to the United States at 14, said she has been in contact with friends since Russia's military operation began overnight.
"I called my best friend and she lives in the city of Dnipro, which is one of the major cities in Ukraine, and she says 'I woke up because I heard explosions' and that just shocked me," said Yaremenko.
It is similar shock being felt by Anya Baryshok, who was in Dnipro, her home city, just a few months ago for the holidays.
"When I was there, it didn't seem like anything really happening because I was in big cities and, you know, life was just going as normal," said Baryshok
The normalcy of the holidays just makes it harder for Baryshok to hear the news coming out of Ukraine.
"We all we're hoping that it's not going to happen and eventually things will get resolved peacefully, but it's just went two different directions so quickly," she said.
Russian President VladImir Putin announced the military operation by saying it's intended to protect civilians and that the goal is not to occupy Ukraine. In response to the invasion, President Joe Biden announced additional sanctions on Russia.
"Sanctions are helpful, but there needs to be stronger decisions made and that actually makes Putin pay for what he has done and what he has been doing in Ukraine for the past several years already," said Yaremenko. "It's evident he's shooting at cities all over Ukraine."
Yaremenko says she has seen pictures of people lined in Ukraine, volunteering to fight and protect the country, if needed.
"I'm so proud of my people that they're, you know, they're standing strong and they have this, I don't know how to say in English, strong will I guess," said Yaremenko. "They refused to be destroyed."
The Utah Ukrainian Association will a rally Saturday set to take place on the steps of the state capitol at noon.