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Goose Creek family shares struggle of having family fighting in Ukraine

The lights at the Kupka house glow blue and yellow paying homage to the Ukrainian flag.
The lights at the Kupka house glow blue and yellow paying homage to the Ukrainian flag.(Live 5)
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 7:38 PM EDT
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GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCSC) - Olya Kupka wipes away tears as she recounts how she learned of the first moments of the war in Ukraine.

“I got a message in the middle of the night,” Olya said. “My sister said the war started. It was the worst time of my life. Just to process it, my family is in such danger. Every day I call them, just to make sure they’re alive.”

More than a month into the war, she’s still calling them every day from her home in Goose Creek.

“They are like three hours away from Kyiv, which is not far enough, and every time I talk with them, they have sirens going off, so they have to end the call and go in hiding spots,” Olya said.

Olya moved to the United States after meeting her husband Josh Kupka. He’s an American who was working in Ukraine as a military contractor as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction team that helped disarm the country’s nuclear weapons from 2003 to 2005. In 2005 they relocated to Russia until 2010, continuing to work on the CTR program. He wonders now if having those weapons would have prevented the invasion.

“It’s hard to say if it would have been enough of a deterrent, but it definitely would help deter a little bit, maybe completely,” Josh said. “Nobody really will ever know. The bad thing was that part of that [CTR] agreement was between the Ukrainians, the U.S., the Brits and the Russians is that they would become the protectors of Ukraine from a foreign adversary if they would come in and attack them. So, where are they?”

In another contract he worked on, Josh helped obtain Soviet-era military equipment that was ultimately brought back to the United States. The Wall Street Journal reports that equipment is now headed back to Ukraine.

“Right now, I’m having a hard time dealing with all this because, for one, we have family there,” Josh said. Two, I feel helpless that I can’t do more. I’d go in a heartbeat right now if I could. With this equipment going back, I know I’m helping in a way.”

Josh says he wants to see western countries step up and increase military aid, including the transfer of military aircraft like what was done through the Lend-Lease policy of World War Two.

“They’ve shown that they don’t need our boots on the ground,” Josh said. “They just need the equipment to be able to defend themselves.”

Neither Olya nor Josh were surprised when the Russian invasion plan fell apart after meeting stiff Ukrainian resistance. Olya says she takes pride in how her country has been able to stand up to a major world power.

“The unity that I hear about the people, from little ones to the oldest ones how they come together and help any way they can; it’s just amazing,” Olya said.

In Goose Creek, their neighbors are showing their support by lighting up their homes in blue and yellow.

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