MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — A famous Ukrainian entertainer and his family are in Minnesota, unsure of when they will be able to return home.
"It's very hard. I don't eat, I don't sleep. I see only news," said Viktor Hevko, a comedian, actor and host in Ukraine.
Hevko did not plan on being in Minnesota. He often emcees Ukrainian weddings and had a job arranged for February in Chicago. Hevko and his wife, Natalia, booked their flights five months in advance. But the day before leaving, they decided to buy a ticket for their son.
Yosyf Sabir served as a translator for this KARE 11 interview with Hevko and paraphrased his response, saying, "They typically never take their little son with them. He's 5-years-old now, but they had a feeling in their hearts he should be with us."
Two days later, Russian forces invaded Ukraine, followed by the country closing its airspace to commercial flights. The family is now staying with Natalia's sister in the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities.
Their home in western Ukraine is being used by a family who escaped the bombings in Kiev and Kharkiv.
"It's incredibly difficult because all we're ingesting is news and the news it's not just news. It's not something you just watch or read about; this is the life of your loved ones. It's the life of your country, your homeland," Hevko said.
Hevko is watching President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, someone he knows personally, now on every TV screen across the world.
Hevko first met Zelenskyy before he became president. Zelenskyy was hosting a comedy reality TV show that Hevko and his partner ended up winning.
Hevko has worked on a number of TV shows as part of the production company Zelenskyy helped create, called Studio Kvartal-95.
He also worked with the president on the political side. During his presidential campaign, Hevko served as the main representative in his state for Zelenskyy and the Servant of the People Party. Once president, Zelenskyy also encouraged Hevko to run for mayor of Ternopil.
Hevko said he never doubted President Zelenskyy's ability to rise to the occasion, saying, "He always listens to people. He doesn't just like to hear himself speak. He really cares about what other people feel and what they think."
While in the U.S., Hevko is doing his part to raise money for Ukraine. He's preparing to host three concerts with the Ukrainian band KAZKA in New York, Chicago and Miami. He is hoping to bring the band to the Twin Cities, too.
"Perhaps I am meant to be here and I'm meant to do my mission... to do everything possible from here to support the people in Ukraine," Hevko said.
"I encourage leaders to have the courage to stand up," said Hevko, adding that it's important for people to continue helping the people of Ukraine.
Hevko is gathering donations for bulletproof vests for Ukrainian soldiers, which he's collecting via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also send checks to St. Constantine Ukrainian Catholic Church in northeast Minneapolis with the memo: "For Ukraine."
More ways to get involved in Minnesota can be found, here.
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