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Ukrainians in Cleveland pray for peace as fears of Russian invasion reach all-time high

More than a hundred protestors gathered outside Saint Josaphat Cathedral in Parma on the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

PARMA, Ohio — As Ukrainian Clevelanders pray for peace, they stood in solidarity outside of Saint Josaphat Cathedral in Parma. About 100 parishioners from the Ukrainian Catholic Church gathered to raise awareness of what is happening Eastern Europe, where fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine are at an all-time high.

"Pray for peace in Europe and Ukraine," Andrew Demjanczuk declared.

Ukraine has been the target of Russia for years, and these protesters say Crimea being annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin was another step closer to invading the entire country. Crimea was taken eight years ago today. 

"It's not a civil war, it's not an insurrection," George Jaskiw from the United Ukrainian Organization of Ohio says. "This a war from Russia about Ukraine."

In the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Roman Sheremeta took time away from his job as a professor at Case Western Reserve University to establish an American school in the small nation. He says he wasn't expecting a possible invasion.

"It just happens that it is happening in one of the most trying times of Ukraine independence and its history," he lamented.

Sheremeta has dual citizenship and remembers when Ukraine was part of the U.S.S.R. He fears going back to the days when Ukrainians had to ration butter.

"Ukraine right now is suffering immensely," he told 3News. "Russia is the aggressor and Ukraine is paying the price."

Besides the threat of war, there is a psychological aspect going on. Sherermeta says having to live a life of fear and wait to see if your freedom will be taken away has been challenging for citizens.

"You have to understand, this whole fight between Russia and Ukraine is a fight between the two world views," he added. "One is very authoritarian, the collectivism; the other one is more democratic.”

Back in Greater Cleveland, thousands of miles from Kyiv, prayers and chanting continue. It will take a miracle to prevent war, and Jaskiw doesn't see how anyone can stop Putin.

"This is not just about Ukraine and Russia," he said. "This is about Mr. Putin using a crow bar to the rule of the world."

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