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'He is like Hitler': ISU doctoral student from Ukraine says Putin's ambitions don't stop with her country

Maryna Teplova's family
Five generations of Maryna Teplova's family. Maryna is in the middle.

News of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has left Ukrainian nationals outside the country scrambling for information about family back home.

Maryna Teplova is a doctoral student at Illinois State University who’s originally from Dnipro, a city in central Ukraine. She said her family is safe, but with Russian troops invading on three fronts, there’s nowhere for them to escape.

“That’s why many people huddle in their places, inside their apartments,” she said.

Teplova said her daughter has a 3-year-old child, so even if she did have a clear path out of the country, travel would be difficult. Teplova said many people have decided to shelter in place.

Her family tells her there have been long lines at grocery stores, as people stock up on food, and at ATMs, as people withdrew their money from banks.

Teplova’s family also tells her Ukrainian forces are fighting back.

“Yes, Ukrainian troops are resisting. They’re fighting. We’re going to show (Russian President Vladimir) Putin he should not have done it. He shouldn’t have come to our land,” she said.

Teplova compares Putin to Hitler. Putin is similar, she said, in "his imperialist ambitions, his cruelty, his greed."

And Teplova believes that Putin has no intention of stopping at Ukraine. Like Hitler, Putin's sights are set much higher, she said.

"Ukraine is just the first step on his way. He wants to go further," Tepolva said. She believes that Putin's ultimate goal is to regain control of other post-Soviet states like Latvia and Lithuania.

Teplova said she’s worried for her family in Ukraine, but is confident her country will stand up to Putin.

“Putin will see that Ukrainians are not going to just kneel in front of him. No, we’re going to fight for our land, for our country, for our independence, for our freedom, from his control,” she said.

Teplova said her cousin, who is a doctor, on Thursday morning left his wife and three children to join the fighting. Teplova said if she were in Ukraine, she would pick up a gun and do the same.

“This is our truth. This is our land. The people who came here, they are occupiers,” she said.

Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.