CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Terrifying images of war in Ukraine continue to resonate with residents of the former Soviet republic living in North Carolina.
Music has always been part of Tatyana Thulien’s life. She grew up in Kiev under the Soviet Union.
Thulien says she finds playing the piano and singing in her Charlotte home an outlet for hope.
“I’m thinking about love and peace,” Thulien said. “And I think about how every country deserves to live in peace, just like my beloved Ukraine.”
As his hometown is attacked by the Russians, Thulien thinks of his parents, originally from Russia and Ukraine. Her mother survived the siege of Leningrad during World War II as a teenager.
“That’s why the sirens ringing all over Ukraine today ring in my heart,” Thulien said. “Because my mother spent an entire year in besieged Leningrad listening to those sirens.”
In her early twenties, Thulien, then a mother of two, watched the Soviet Union crumble in the 1990s. She lost her job in an engineering department and fell into the savage post-socialist environment of private enterprise.
She eventually received a scholarship to study in the United States at the University of Georgia and the University of Missouri.
She met her husband in Missouri. The two were married in Ukraine before getting her visa and moving to Minnesota in 1997. She has been involved in the Slavic community for many years as a public figure, journalist and Russian teacher.
“Our dear lord wanted me here,” Thulien said. “He wanted me to create the family here and be able to bring my legacy here as well.”
Thulien remains in constant contact with his friends still living in Ukraine. They continue to send him heartbreaking messages and videos of empty store shelves.
“I tell them to stay strong, don’t give up, don’t lose hope and stay alive,” Thulien said.
Thulien seeks to do more for Ukrainians. His nonprofit United Communities helps create a humanitarian project called Road of Life.
She collects basic necessities like clothes, medicine and money.
” People are scared. People are suffering. They are absolutely unsure of their future and we have to help them,” Thulien said.
Thulien says she’s praying for a better future, though she still doesn’t know how the war will end.
“I really don’t know today,” Thulien said. “I hope the whole world will stop and just focus on peace.”
Thulien is a candidate for the Mecklenburg County Commission seat. She also sits on the community relations committee to help raise awareness of county programs, services and initiatives.
To learn more about donating to her humanitarian project, visit the United Communities Association website.