How the Ukraine war has touched Snohomish County

A roundup of our coverage: Local residents share their stories and tell how the Russian invasion has changed their lives.

It has been close to two months since the Russian military invaded Ukraine. Since then, Herald reporters have covered the impact of the war on people living in Snohmish County. From refugees fleeing destruction to immigrants worried about loved ones stuck in a war zone, their tales have been heart-wrenching. Here’s a roundup of their stories:

Protest

Hundreds of people gathered to protested Russia’s invasion on Ukraine at in Seattle on Feb. 27. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Hundreds of people gathered to protested Russia’s invasion on Ukraine at in Seattle on Feb. 27. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Seattle on Feb. 26 to rally against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. A grassy patch below the Space Needle turned into a sea of blue and yellow as people waved Ukrainian and American flags and called for an end to the war.

Many held up posters. Some depicted Putin as a modern-day Hitler, while others read, “Freedom for Ukraine,” and “Peace, not war,” in Ukrainian.

Some of them were Ukrainian immigrants living in Snohomish County, like Lily Tomchick of Everett. She spent the past week wrought with fear for the safety of loved ones.

“A part of my heart is left over there,” said Tomchick, 24. “I’m in a state of despair looking at the news, seeing all these places getting destroyed. Every single time you get news, it’s never good news. You think, ‘This is the worst that it could be.’ Then you get more news and it’s worse than that.”

[Sleepless nights for Ukrainian immigrants in Snohomish County]

Adoption

Katie-Jo Page sits in her living room with a photo of Mykyta on March 6 in Snohomish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Katie-Jo Page sits in her living room with a photo of Mykyta on March 6 in Snohomish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Mykyta, an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy, spent the winter on a small Snohomish farm, thanks to an international hosting program. In January, he returned to his orphanage with the promise he’d be adopted and come back to Washington.

Then Russian forces invaded Mykyta’s home country. Bombings, power outages and a mass exodus of Ukrainians fleeing their homes have left the his adoptive American family largely in the dark about where Mykyta is and when he’ll be able to return.

“We were counting down the days until he would come back again,” Katie-Jo Page told The Daily Herald. “And then this happened. And we’re not sure when we’ll see him again.”

[‘He’s scared’: War halts Snohomish family’s Ukrainian adoption]

Propaganda

Marina and Mike Stiranka at their home with their dog Gus on March 17 in Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marina and Mike Stiranka at their home with their dog Gus on March 17 in Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Mike Stiranka knows Russian state TV peddles in propaganda. He knows it’s fueling the violent attack on his home country, Ukraine.

Still, he spends hours watching it, perched on the edge of a plush couch upstairs in his Edmonds home.

His loved ones in Russia don’t believe him when he says their government is brutally invading Ukraine, targeting civilians and sparking a massive refugee crisis. He’s trying to wrap his head around it.

“We’re all victims here of the same lie,” he told The Daily Herald.

[‘Victims of the same lie’: War frays Edmonds couple’s family ties]

Refugees

Husband and wife Nataliia Ktitorova, Vitalii Ktitorov and brother-in-law Yosip Lakatosh, right, at the Refugee & Immigrant Services Northwest office on March 24 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Husband and wife Nataliia Ktitorova, Vitalii Ktitorov and brother-in-law Yosip Lakatosh, right, at the Refugee & Immigrant Services Northwest office on March 24 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Nataliia Ktitorova described her life in Kharkiv, Ukraine as “normal.” Through an interpreter, she said her husband Vitalii worked as a taxi driver. With two young daughters, the couple dreamed of buying a home someday.

She paused and snapped her fingers — that’s how fast things changed.

The family’s hometown is in ruins now, bombed by Russian forces. This week, friends sent videos of their church demolished by a rocket.

Now Nataliia, her husband, brother-in-law Yosip Lakatosh and sister Tetiana, along with all their children, are living with relatives in Everett.

[Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Snohomish County]

Foreign solider

A cloud of smoke rises after an explosion in Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 18. (AP Photo, File)

A cloud of smoke rises after an explosion in Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 18. (AP Photo, File)

Nearly two decades ago, Carl Larson served in the Army as American troops toppled Saddam Hussein. Now 47, the Snohomish County resident is back in a war zone, this time to help the Ukrainian people in their fierce defense against Russian invaders.

Larson says he has been inspired by what he sees as the stark moral clarity of preventing the slaughter of civilians and thwarting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of occupying an independent nation.

“This is our generation’s call to duty. Our grandfathers fought and defeated Hitler, and now it’s our turn,” Larson said in a phone interview from Ukraine. “There is no ambiguity here.”

[Snohomish County vet follows uneasy ‘call to duty’ into Ukraine]

Marriage

Gregory Lemke (left) and Davyd Klimov are working to bring Klimov’s wife, Natalia, to the U.S. from Ukraine. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gregory Lemke (left) and Davyd Klimov are working to bring Klimov’s wife, Natalia, to the U.S. from Ukraine. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Davyd Klimov, 27, proposed to his wife nine days after they met. The couple’s friends and family were a little skeptical of such a short courtship, but he and Natalia didn’t see the point in waiting.

The newlyweds knew it could take a while for Natalia to immigrate from Ukraine to the United States. The distance wasn’t ideal, but Natalia and Klimov were in love and willing to wait. They began researching the process last fall.

Then, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Frantically, and from across the globe, Klimov tried to help Natalia flee to neighboring Poland. One immigration attorney said, once Natalia was in Poland, that it would cost up to $3,000 and take a year to bring her to the United States.

“What is this, a different planet?” Klimov said. “Why can’t I get my wife here? I don’t have months. I don’t have days. I don’t have weeks.”

[For Ukrainian couple, ‘a dead end no matter where I try to go’]

Art

Anna Lomachenko spent five months designing her national award-winning headdress “Vinok.” (Contributed)

Anna Lomachenko spent five months designing her national award-winning headdress “Vinok.” (Contributed)

Anna Lomachenko, a senior at Snohomish High School, said art is her tool. It’s a tool to educate her peers about the war, to share the beauty of Ukrainian culture, and to draw a clear line between Ukrainian identity and that of an occupied people, she said.

“We have a totally different culture, different language, we have different traditions. We have different identity that I can talk a lot about,” Lomachenko said. “I want the world to recognize this difference between Russia and Ukraine.”

Lomachenko’s striking white headdress “Vinok” was selected from 260,000 submitted pieces as a National Gold Medal and American Visions Medal winner from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

[For Snohomish teen, Ukrainian headdress is more than art]

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