Steube mobile office
Ukrainian-Americans Ivanka Olesnycky, left, Inia Tunstall, Mykola Kompanijec and Alfred L. Kolodziej, and Pam Nolan, who said she’s one of Rep. Greg Steube’s constituents, turned up at his “mobile office’ hours in Venice Thursday to urge continued financial aid for Ukraine. SUN PHOTO BY BOB MUDGE

VENICE — They knew he wouldn’t be there, but members of the local Ukrainian-American community and supporters showed up at U.S. Rep. Greg Steube’s “mobile office” hours in Venice on Thursday anyway.

Three people who will contend for the Democratic nomination to challenge Steube in Congressional District 17 next year were also present: Andrea Doria Kale, of North Port, who ran against him in 2022; Manny Lopez, of Nokomis; and Matthew Montavon, of Sarasota, who said he, too, has Ukrainian heritage.

The congressman and his aides were all in Washington, D.C., a staffer at City Hall said. But it was still important to make an appearance to address Steube’s reluctance to continue funding Ukraine in its war with Russia, Inia Tunstall said.

Tunstall is president of Branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, based in North Port. Tunstall is a retired doctor, a military veteran and a member of Ukrainian-American Veterans, and North Port resident.

“I thought it would be important for us to come to make a statement,” she said.

She was accompanied by fellow UAV members Mykola Kompanijec and Alfred L. Kolodziej.

“Where’s the end of it (if U.S. aid dries up)?” Kompanijec said.

Further Russian expansion, Kolodziej replied, because President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, wants to reassemble the former Soviet Union.

“People don’t know history anymore,” he said, noting that each great power over the ages — citing Egypt, Greece, Rome — no longer plays a major role in the world.

“We’re the great country now,” he said. “What’s going to happen to us?”

Oksana Piaseckyj chairs the Florida Chapter of the U.S. Committee for Ukrainian Holomodor-Genocide Awareness. She said Putin intends another genocide like the one Josef Stalin perpetrated in 1932-33 by creating a manmade famine.

“It’s a repetition,” she said.

Concerns about the amount of U.S. aid are overblown, Tunstall said, because through Oct. 31, the European Union had given more.

Most of the American aid is actually being spent at home, to pay for weapons that are then sent overseas, she said, and there is accountability for the spending.

Putin’s statements that he wants to “de-Nazify” Ukraine are ridiculous, she said, because the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.

Ukraine has been a democracy since regaining its independence, she said, and needs help to remain one in the face of authoritarian movements around the world.

“In terms of democracy, we’re shrinking, and that’s wrong,” Tunstall said. “We’ve got to do something.”