Images of war with Russia weigh heavily on Nashville Ukrainians

Posted at 6:02 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 20:36:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Images of war and destruction in Ukraine weigh heavily on the minds of immigrants living in Middle Tennessee.

From the kitchen of Andrey Tutubalin, the Ukrainian-born Nashvillian talks about worries from the war.

"With social media's help I know all of the air strikes and everything that's going on," Tutubalin said. "It's just devastating."

He's been in Tennessee for seven years and left his former home country to pursue more education and citizenship in the U.S.

In Nashville, met his wife, Yulia, who is also Ukrainian.

Tutubalin has connections with a news producer, who is still in the country. She connected NewsChannel5 with two embedded freelance journalists who are currently in Kharkiv.

Ivan Syrnik and Jeka Yanev now aspire to be war correspondents for the conflict.

"We're simple people," said Syrnik during an online video call. "We did nothing. For what are they killing us?"

Syrnik and Tanev were there as Ukrainian forces moved back into the town of Bucha.

They captured graphic video of a mass grave, destruction, loss of life and other terrors of war.

"They're killing children, they're killing pregnant women, they rape them. [They're] like animals," Syrnik said.

The images, like so many, are often shown on social media available to Ukranians.

Tutubalin said he watches every day.

Yanev told NewsChannel 5 he had temporary hearing loss and a possible concussion from an explosion near the aid group they're following.

Syrnik said everyone in the country is living in fear.

"It's hard, it's scary, it's heavy," he said. "They [Russians] were trying to hide dead bodies."

Syrnik is worried about places like Mariupol that are currently still a major battle zone.

He said what they saw in Bucha might be much worse there.

"It's not a war between Ukraine and Russians. It's a war for freedom. For democracy," said Syrnik. He added he thinks Russians hate democracy.

Tutubalin said talking with the two journalist didn't do anything to alleviate his fears.

He has family in the country in a city called Dnipro. His sister is there and is fighting for the country.

"My family is at my home city and they're willing to stay there. There's some health conditions for my grandparents that they can't actually leave," said Tutubalin.

The hardest part for him is seeing the destruction and feeling helpless.

They want to stay in America but the images of their home country stir so many emotions.

"It makes me feel even worse than I was feeling before," Tutubalin said.