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Ukrainian man living in Minnesota fears for family as Russia ramps up attacks on his homeland

When the U.S news media began reporting about a month ago that Russia President Vladmir Putin was threatening to invade Ukraine, Serhii Kadyrov urged his mother and brother to leave for Poland. His stepfather stayed behind and has now fled the village after gunshots from Russian soldiers damaged his house.

Serhii Kadyrov, with his arms folded, stands in a horse stable apartment which has halters and ribbons on the wall.
Serhii Kadyrov, a Ukrainan living on a farm near Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, is concerned about his family in Ukraine and is raising money to move his mother and brother from Poland to the United States or Canada.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

RED LAKE FALLS, Minn. — Serhii Kadyrov is torn between two countries.

A Ukrainian living in Red Lake Falls, Kadyrov is grateful to be living in a country that has offered him opportunities to start businesses and a community that has embraced him, but he is distressed about the Russian invasion of his native country and wishes he could be there to help his family and friends.

“I wish I had stayed there so I could help like-minded people,” Kadyrov said.

Kadyrov is confident that Ukrainian citizens will not back down and let Russian President Vladmir Putin overtake their country.

“They will fight to death,” he said.

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Kadyrov, 28, moved to the United States in 2017, to work for a Red Lake Falls farmer as part of an agricultural workers program. He met and married Katie Dolan, a neighbor of the farmer, later that year. The couple own a dog kennel and horse business near Red Lake Falls.

Kadyrov’s family, which includes his stepfather, step-aunt and many cousins, live in Sytnyaki, a village about 40 miles west of Kyiv. Kadyrov’s mother, Tatiana is a hair stylist and his brother, Pavlo, is a men’s barber there.

When the U.S news media began reporting about a month ago that Russia President Vladmir Putin was threatening to invade Ukraine, Kadyrov urged his mother and brother to leave for Poland.

Tatiana was hard to convince to leave, because, like many other Ukrainians, she didn’t believe Putin wanted to take over her country, Dolan said. Meanwhile, the Kadyrov family have Russian relatives living in Moscow and Crimea who told them that Putin only wanted to keep the east regions of Ukraine safe and that he never would enter Kyiv.

However, Kadyrov continued to warn his mother of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine and cautioned her that if it occurred, the Russian army likely would kill Pavlo. After consulting with a Ukranian general, who is married to a family member, and learning from him that the situation was dangerous, Tatiana finally agreed to leave.

She and Pavlo boarded a flight from Kyiv bound for Warsaw, on Feb. 7, 2022.

“They both brought one carry-on and one bag to put under the plane, and their hair cutting tools and left,” Dolan said. “I know she was scared, and left her job and her clients and husband, but we are so grateful she listened to us.”

Mother and son are staying in an Airbnb, which Dolan booked for them for 30 days.

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Kadyrov’s stepfather stayed in Sytnyaki to care for the family pets and several family members who moved in with him. Last week, the family moved food, clothing and other necessities to the basement of the home where they were sheltered until this week. For the past several days, Kadyrov has been unable to reach his stepfather, but he did contact a neighbor of his stepfather's who told him that his stepfather and extended family had left the village.

Kadyrov received word this week, from the neighbor that the house was damaged by gunfire from Russian soldiers. The family left by car for another village, which has water and electrical power and where they believe they will be safer, Dolan said.

Kadyrov carries his cell phone with him wherever he goes so he can listen to news broadcasts about the invasion throughout the day, and he has slept little since Ukraine was invaded.

"You’re so worried all of the time,” Dolan said. She knows that she and Kadyrov have to continue their daily routine, but it’s hard to concentrate in the midst of the war in Ukraine.

“It’s kind of weird that life goes on here, and their life is falling apart, and we can't do anything,” Dolan said.

Although the couple feel helpless to do anything about what's happening in Ukraine, they are raising money to get Tatiana and Pavlo to the United States or to Canada. Kadyrov also plans to help with humanitarian aid.

Kadyrov and Dolan say people who wish to donate to help those in need in Ukraine should visit ukrainianinstitute.org.uk. Dolan is hosting a silent auction to raise funds on the Facebook page of River’s Edge Gypsies.

What can you do to support Ukraine & Ukrainians?

Related Topics: UKRAINEAGRICULTUREMINNESOTA
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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