Refugees in Philadelphia keeping close eye on homeland as Ukraine reclaims more territory

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Ukrainian troops on Monday extended their territorial gains, pushing in part as far as the country’s northeastern border and claiming to have captured a record number of Russian soldiers in the lightning advance that forced Moscow into a hasty retreat.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence said Russian troops surrendered en masse because “they understand the hopelessness of their situation.” An aide to Ukraine’s president said there were so many prisoners of war that the country had no space to hold them.

Blue and yellow Ukrainian flags fluttered over newly liberated towns on a vast swath of reclaimed land. The Ukrainian military said it liberated more than 20 settlements in 24 hours. According to the British Defense Ministry, Kiev’s forces have seized areas at least twice the size of Greater London in recent days.

“Thank God. Russia, flee our blessed Ukrainian territory,” said Yuliia Bihun, a Ukrainian refugee living in Philadelphia.

Bihun celebrates recent news of territorial advances.

“The Ukrainian army is the bravest army in the world,” Bihun said.

Her husband is still in Urkaine. She is in Philadelphia with her two-year-old daughter, Sarra. The family gets help from St. Luke Orthodox Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

Bishop Luke Zhoba of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Northern Liberties said while Ukraine is making progress at home, he feels the Russian army is still unpredictable.

“That’s good news. We feel much better, but Russians, you know, are very aggressive, especially the government and Putin,” Zhoba said.

That’s why he helps Ukrainian refugees to start a new life here in Philadelphia. One of the refugees staying at his church is now volunteering to teach English to other refugees.

Monday was her first day of classes.

“There are many people who also want to come and we will offer our services every day,” said Alla Pukhtetska, a Ukrainian refugee.

The ultimate goal for many like Bihun is reunification with family.

“We hope to return home as soon as possible,” Bihun said.

Some refugees live in the parsonage of the church in Northern Liberties.

The church is seeking donations of any kind, food, clothing and furniture to help the refugees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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