They were emotional and scared – but also full of pride when talking about the ongoing war.
Some stops at a vigil outside of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in the East Village in Manhattan, which has a number of Ukrainian businesses and residents
The Big Apple’s “Little Ukraine” neighborhood have showed up in droves to support their fellow New Yorkers.
A woman on line to get into Veselka, a Ukrainian diner on 2nd Avenue, draped the country’s flag over her back like a superhero’s cape and held a sign that has become the rallying cry: “I need ammo, not a ride.”
Across the street, Andrew Ilnicki, the manager of Bacynski meat market, told The Sun, “I’m so prideful,” while pounding his chest.
“They have the heart to protect our land,” Ilnicki said.
His wife’s family currently lives on the western end of Ukraine – the one area where Vladamir Putin’s forces haven’t invaded yet – but the raid sirens are psychologically hurting his family.
“The news is on 24/7. The sirens devastate my wife. And they’re devastating to my children. Any missile that is shot leaves a huge area of destruction,” he said.
“But Ukrainians will keep fighting, and hopefully it will be over soon and we will have defeated the Russians.”
Many businesses along 2nd Avenue flew the Ukrainian flag in their windows and signs that read “I stand with Ukraine” and “Say no to Putin.”
Around the corner on 7th Street and 2nd Avenue is the historic Saint George Ukrainian Catholic Church where a memorial covered the front steps where dozens of people stopped through the day Tuesday.
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The stairs were covered with candles and flowers in the Ukrainian colors of light blue, purple and yellow.
Ukraine’s and America’s flags flanked a sign that said, “Pray for Ukraine” in both languages along with a poster board full of horrifying pictures of the violence.
Across the street from the church, Steve “Pepe” Zwaryczuk has been a bartender at McSorely’s Old Ale House for about 40 years.
His cousins still live on the western side of Ukraine.
“They all left the cities and live in rural areas on the outskirts of the invasion,” Zwaryczuk said. “Right now they’re not part of the assault but they can hear the shellings and bombs.
“There’s always a concern that the Russian tanks will come rolling into their homes.
It’s been seen as this David vs Goliath showdown, but what scares people is not knowing if Goliath really showed up yet.”
While talking to The Sun, he prepped the bar, had fun with his customers and told crude jokes like only the best New York City bartenders can.
Then he said his wife cried during SNL’s opening where a Ukrainian choir sang a prayer, and suddenly there was a kink in the tough-guy-humorous exterior.
He turned his back for a moment and went to the other end of the bar.
“It really got to me too. I’m tearing up myself. It was a prayer for Ukraine,” he said.
“The thing is see whenever I talk about it is my wife crying and listening to the choir. I see men at the border getting their wives and children across and turning around to fight.
“They’re not soldiers. They’re regular people protecting their country. But the cost is dead bodies and destruction.”
“Pepe” has been in constant communication for years – well before Russia invaded – but it’s picked up to make sure everyone is safe.
“Everything is at a standstill,” he said. “Their daughter can’t go to school. They can’t get groceries. The roads are flooded in one direction, and that’s out of the country.”
But the city’s show of solidarity has been moving for “Little Ukraine.”
“I’m amazed. The show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people is not just people in New York City or in the States; it’s all over the world.”
A woman prayed outside the historic church while he spoke.
“Pepe” had a message to his cousins and the warriors fighting against Russia: “Hang tough.”
“Not just the individuals fighting Putin, but the entire world who’s fighting against Putin and the invasion. I don’t know what his end game is, but Ukraine got a taste of democracy and freedom and that’s why they’re fighting.”