A brother fights in the war in Ukraine. The other two live in America and pray the messages of their soldier brother every day.
This is the new reality for brothers Oleksander, Artour and Andrey Kissil, who grew up in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, which was home to almost 1.5 million people before the war.
Oleksander Kissil, the youngest of the three brothers, is in Kharkiv protecting his hometown from Russian invaders, who are bombed daily.
And Russian attacks are expected to intensify as Vladimir Putin strengthens his forces in the east of the country. Kharkiv is the nearest border point, only about 40 km away from Russia.
On the other side of the world, older brothers Artour and Andrey Kissil are in the United States, closely monitoring events and waiting for news from their brother every day.
Artour lives in Queens, New York City. Every night he goes to a local coffee shop to await a text or call from Oleksander telling him that his brother is alive and well.
On Thursday, Oleksander texted Artour confirming he was fine but describing the situation in Kharkiv as “so bad”. Oleksander added that “so many rockets are landing”.
The exact location where Oleksander sees action each day is not shared, but it is known to be in and around Kharkiv.
As updates come in, Artour, an architect, forwards messages to his brother Andrey, a truck driver who is often on the road.
Artour told The US Sun about his stress waiting for updates from Oleksander, saying his blood pressure “rises” when he doesn’t get a message. Speaking about his daily wait for news, Artour broke down in tears, but he has support everywhere.
The community where Artour lives in Queens with his wife and daughter rallies and lends a helping hand when times are tough: “All the neighbors [are] come to me [saying] We can help you… Everyone say [Oleksander] is a hero of Ukraine because he fights.”
Artour is confident that Oleksander can survive this war. The brothers were all in the military from a young age and were born into a military family. Her father was an officer in the Ukrainian army.
Back in Ukraine, Oleksander was on duty in central Kharkiv when he happened to meet a photographer working for The US Sun.
He told our photographer about his brothers in the US, but also spoke about how defiant he is about Putin’s armed forces.
“I like to tell [my brothers] how we fight those damn Russians,” Oleksander told our photographer.
The youngest brother had a message for his siblings: “Artour and Andrey, I am in our native Kharkiv, on the square where we used to run as children. Don’t worry. Everything is fine and we will win!
“We are supported by all of our people. Every tree here supports us. Every time you are ambushed, you hide behind a tree and feel how it protects you,” Oleksander added.
The US Sun met Artour at his home in Queens. His message to his soldier brother in Ukraine is equally defiant.
“We’re trying to support you. God bless you and your life… and we know that if we win, you will live to the end,” Artour said.
Some much-needed good news for the Kissil brothers is that their family home is still intact, despite being located above a military school, according to Artour.
“Before the war started, I said, our house is being bombed and destroyed because we have a military school under the house… but somehow our house is still alive. It doesn’t get bombs, though [nearby] Houses were destroyed,” Artour said.
As an architect, Artour is already thinking about rebuilding Kharkiv, telling The US Sun that many historic buildings have been bombed, but he knows the war is not over and hard times are yet to come.
In a recent interview Thursday with India’s Republic TelevisionUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the city of Kharkiv was blocked by the Russians from two directions, but the situation was still under control.
Zelenskyi added: “There is constant fighting in the city, but we are holding our positions and not taking a step back.”
A report in The New York Times paints the picture of a city suffering from indiscriminate shelling, including cruise missiles and cluster bombs. Some residential areas have been “turned into post-apocalyptic wastelands,” the newspaper reported.
Still, the brothers maintain a tough stance towards their attacker, and Artour has a positive message for the Ukrainian people:
“Stop stop! We will win… because of Ukrainian character [is] so strong… and I’m so happy because all people, like military and civilian, are all together, like brother and sister.”
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