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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The grim updates from Ukraine are hard to accept for a Tennessee woman with roots in Ukraine as a well as a Memphis cardiac surgeon who just back from the war-torn country. 

Tatyana Johnson grew up in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. She moved to Nashville about a year and half ago, but she is in constant contact with her family, still in a country under siege.

“I talked to them this morning. I talked to my sister and I talked to my other family members too,” Johnson said. “As of right now they have internet connection so I’m able to contact them, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

She’s started networking with other Ukrainians living in Tennessee to keep them updated on the latest developments and try to keep them calm.

She’s admits what she’s hearing from friends is not encouraging.

“My friends tell me that they had to go into the shelter because they heard the sirens in Kyiv and they had to seek shelter,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the Russian invasion is totally unjustified, devastating and mere economic sanctions won’t stop President Vladimir Putin.

“The world needs to do something about it because if he’s not stopped, all of us in the world are going to suffer from this,” Johnson said.

The invasion of Ukraine has also hit an emotional nerve in Memphis pediatric cardiologist Dr. Bill Novick.

“The physical damage that they’re causing the country now is going to set medical care in Ukraine back years, maybe decades,” said Dr. Novick, the Founder of Novick Cardiac Alliance.

Novick and his team have traveled to the Ukraine numerous times since 1994, and most recently in the beginning of 2022.

“The last week of January and the first week of February. So, Russian troops were already staging on the border and in Belarus while our team was there,” Dr. Novick said.

He’s helped teach doctors ways to improve medical care. He and his staff, over the years, have extended the quality of life for scores of children.

Now, back in Memphis, he’s worried about friends that stayed behind who pledged to defend their freedom.

“A lot of my colleagues over there are Russian who live in Ukraine and they now hate Mother Russia and they’ve all said, ‘we will stand here with our own hunting rifles,” Dr. Novick said.

Novick has Russian and Ukrainian roots, a Russian grandfather and Ukrainian grandmother.

He said he undoubtedly stands with Ukraine and plans to return in May to continue his work there.