GREEN BAY (Wis.) -- Alona Vakal is aware that a stronger military response by the U.S. against Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin has brutally invaded Ukraine , could lead to an all-out war.
Her concern isn’t about what might happen if Washington intervenes more aggressively. She is concerned about what might happen if it does not.
Vakal said, "Putin will not stop", after he arrived in Green Bay in 2008, having come from Berdyansk in the southeastern Ukraine. He will not stop if America does not do more to stop him. The more we wait, the worse it'll be."
Vakal, whose sister and mother still reside in Berdyansk which is currently occupied Russian forces, didn't say that she would want the United States to send troops to the Ukraine. She urged Washington and Europe to create a no fly zone even though it could drawthem into open warfare.
People worry about World War III. World War III is here already. She said, "What more can you see?" Putin is only the first step in Ukraine.
Vakal spoke to NBC News in a small Green Bay church -- home to a tight-knit section of Wisconsin's 10,000 Ukrainian Americans. There, dozens of members of a group known as Wisconsin Ukrainians gathered Thursday night in order to sort and pack thousands of pounds worth of medical equipment, boots and clothing to send to soldiers and civilians in Ukraine.
They were heartbroken, angry, enraged, and devastated by the Russian suffering inflicted on their homeland.
Many demanded that the West be more aggressive in helping Ukraine. However, it was not clear how much the U.S. should intervene. While some agreed with Vakal's belief that an intervention is needed now to stop Putin from starting a larger and more dangerous war, others stated that they are aware of the potential dangers that further steps like a NATO enforced no-fly area over the county could pose.
"Sooner, or later, someone must step in," stated Valentyn Tereshchenko. He arrived in Green Bay in 2001 after moving from Sumy in northeastern Ukraine. Sumy has been under intense attack by Russian troops. "And yes, I would love to see the U.S. become more aggressive. To help close the gap, Ukraine needs more guns, planes, tanks, missiles and weapons.
Jonathan Pylypiv was an orphan from Ternopil in west Ukraine in 1992. He said that the U.S. should not solely focus on whether Ukraine is a member or not of NATO and the European Union when considering whether to intervene.
He said, "If we were to watch World War II live-streamed in the same way that we are now watching the invasion of Ukraine, would we really say, "Oh, those poor people being murdered by the Nazis, but we shouldn’t help them since they don’t live within a NATO country?"
Pylypiv created the Wisconsin Ukrainians Facebook group in 2014 to foster a sense of community. In recent months, he's used the site to organize rallies, vigils and coordinate with other groups in the state to gather goods for shipment to Ukraine. He is currently working to convert the group into a nonprofit.
These pleas center on the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. This political pact, under which Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons and Russia agreed not to use military force against Ukraine, and where the U.S. offered security assurances to Ukraine in case of a threat to its territory, is at the heart of these pleas.
Pylypiv stated that the U.S. is bound by moral obligation to uphold this. "Words can't express the feelings of abandonment or disappointment.
He and others stated that the harsh sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden on Putin and other Russian Oligarchs, as well as the White House ban on Russian oil imports, were important moves that will cause real pain to the Russian government. However, many people said they would not stop Putin from his war.
Tereshchenko said, "They're going to not stop the war," adding that his sister and parents still live in Sumy. "I think Putin doesn't actually care about his people." He said that he would do whatever he wanted, regardless of whether 10,000 or 100,000 soldiers of his army die or 100,000 starve.
Vakal added, "It's just not enough, I'm sorry. They won't stop him. He has his plans."
Others acknowledged that sanctions were all the U.S. could do at the moment without launching a wider conflict and expressed concern about the potential for wider ramifications of increased U.S. involvement.
"I believe those of us who were raised here might better understand the higher risk of another war and the nuclear component that could ensue if boots are put on the ground or even if a no fly zone is implemented," Olga Liskiwskyi said. She is the executive director at the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum, Detroit, where more 26,000Ukrainian Americans reside.
She said, "I believe that newer immigrants, with a stronger connection to the country are anxious and may not understand why the U.S. doesn't do more militarily."
Liskiwskyi is a member of Michigan's Ukrainian American Crisis Response Committee. Her parents fled Ukraine during World War II. She is close to her family in Kyiv.
Svitlana Mykhaylo Mykhaylyuk and Mykhaylo Mykhaylyuk, both of Green Bay, keep that connection with Ukraine.
Svitlana is an accounting assistant who came from Vinnytsia in central Ukraine to Green Bay as an exchange student in 2006. Mykhaylo, a Ternopil student who came to Green Bay in 2002 as an exchange student, met her soon. She now works in a local cheese factory. Together they have two children and helped to create the Ukrainian Cultural School in Green Bay. Both are close to family in Ukraine.
They emphasized that Ukraine is fighting Russia with all its might and that any additional assistance from the U.S. would not be wasted.
Svitlana stated, "My mother can hear rockets everyday." "I'm proud to be a citizen of this country. They protect their country from 7 to 90 years of age. It is strange that NATO doesn't want to protect us. The U.S. seems afraid to close the skies when children and elderly in Ukraine are standing up for their families and friends.
Her husband said, "Give me the planes and anti-aircraft weapons." We'll do this ourselves.