CHARITON, Iowa — It is a message many in Lucas County hope to send to family and friends in Ukraine.

“If you are listening out there, God is the only one that can help us,” said Alex Primakov who owns Primo Heating and Cooling in Chariton.

Alex is no stranger to the images currently spreading like wildfire of Ukrainians fleeing the country during the Russian invasion. “It’s sad that people are dying for somebody else’s agenda. That should never happen,” said Primakov. He added, “The people are really struggling now.”

His family was forced to flee violence from the then USSR and communism in the late 1980s. “The only religion that was allowed was the orthodox,” said Primakov whose father was a Pentecostal Catholic priest. Primakov remembers the KGB coming to his home. “They would come in and break your doors they would arrest you and throw you in jail,” said Primakov.

The family found that Chariton, Iowa reminded them of home. “My dad grew up on a farm. I think that hit home. The dirt was black and he knows if the dirt is black that means a lot,” said Primakov.

Knowing what freedom feels like after living in danger makes Alex hope even harder that the current conflict in Ukraine can end soon. He said, “Somebody’s kids are dying. That is somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter. That is somebody’s child.”

Primakov’s parents were the first Ukrainians to call Chariton home in 1998. Alex estimates now over two decades later there are around 1,000 Ukrainians in the community. All most likely feeling the same pain for their native land. “There are still a lot of families that are living here but they have direct relatives that live there and it is just sad,” said Primakov.

The destruction may be happening over 5,000 miles away but the emotions have made Iowans like Primakov feel like they are at ground zero “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best and hopefully it will not escalate any further. It is definitely a terrible thing to see. If you are listening out there in Ukraine and listening in Russia we pray for you and we pray for peace,” Primakov said.