Ukrainian community in Chicago prays for families overseas, speaks out against Russian invasion

Family members also shared cell phone videos of explosions that rocked the country during the full-scale invasion

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As Russian forces continue their attack in Ukraine, residents of Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood are rallying against the invasion and praying for their families overseas. 

Students from Saint Nicholas Elementary walked from school to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago for a special service on Thursday. Many children in attendance had been watching the developments overseas in fear of family members who live in Ukraine. 

One eighth-grader told FOX 32 Chicago that his cousins – around the same age as him – were in Ukraine and were ready to defend it. 

"In my opinion, it is very scary, I don't know how they feel since they live there and go to school there," the student said. "Now they have to do what they can do to keep themselves alive."

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Family members also shared cell phone videos of explosions that rocked the country during the full-scale invasion. 

Police officers inspect area after an apparent Russian strike in Kyiv Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Police officers inspect area after an apparent Russian strike in Kyiv Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

"All Ukrainians have been up all night watching the news," said Geri Abramiuk, manager of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Chicago. "It’s very, very sad."

A U.S. defense official said the attack started with a Russian missile barrage of around 100 intermediate-range, short-range, and cruise missiles that came from the land, air, and sea, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Defense

The official noted that Russian forces were in the initial phase of the invasion of Ukraine and were attacking through three corridors. There was fighting within 20 miles of the center of the capital Kyiv, as well as fighting around the eastern city of Kharkiv and in the southern part of the country. 

"It's our assessment that [Russian forces] have every intention of basically, decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves towards Kyiv," the unnamed official said in the report. 

On Thursday afternoon in Chicago, a rally was held at Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church which saw residents -- who gathered on the steps of the church and nearby streets -- carrying Ukrainian flags and signs. 

A rally was held at Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago on Thursday afternoon.

A rally was held at Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago on Thursday afternoon. (WFLD)

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Those in attendance expressed concern and anger. Some called for harsher sanctions than the new ones President Biden announced earlier on Thursday, the station reported. 

"How much more Ukrainian blood has to be shed to make them pay? Now is the time, unleash the sanctions, stop the war. Stop Russia’s economy. Today, there must be action by the United Nations," said Pavlo Bandriwsky, Vice President of Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Illinois Division, according to FOX 32 Chicago

Those in attendance at the rally in Chicago on Thursday expressed concern and anger.

Those in attendance at the rally in Chicago on Thursday expressed concern and anger. (WFLD)

Biden said the sanctions, in coordination with a coalition of other nations, would target more major Russian banks and make it harder for Russia to do business in dollars, Euros, pounds, and yen. The sanctions will also target Russian elites and limit the borrowing opportunities for 13 Russian entities and enterprises. There will also be "new limitations" on what can be exported to Russia, Biden said.

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The Chicago community has been protesting for months. A vigil will be held Thursday evening to honor lives lost during the invasion. 

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report