September 2, 2022
Contact: Dianna Shaw, 205-764-3434, firstname.lastname@example.org
Families of American POWs in Russian-Controlled Captivity Meet with Ukraine Ambassador, Members of Ukrainian-American Community
The families of Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, volunteers in the Ukrainian Army being held captive by Russian-backed forces, met virtually with Ukraine Ambassador Oksana Markarova and six members of the U.S. Department of State on Thursday, September 1.
“It was wonderful to hear first-hand from the Ambassador that Alex and Andy are a priority along with all their prisoners of war,” Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke, said. “She also agreed to help us get a letter to President Zelenskyy thanking him for calling our men heroes and asking him not to forget them,” Mrs. Drueke said.
“I was happy I got to tell her why Andy wanted to help Ukraine,” Joy Black, Huynh’s fiancée, said. “It just laid on Andy’s heart to see teenage boys in Ukraine joining the Army to try to protect their homes,” Miss Black said. “Andy felt called to help, and Alex did too, and I could tell that touched her,” Black added.
“The Ambassador thanked us for our men’s service and said she is praying for the day they can come home when she can thank them in person,” Black said.
“It definitely encouraged me to see that our government and Ukraine are working closely to get our men released,” Drueke’s aunt, Dianna Shaw, said. “Ambassador Markarova assured us that all who are being held captive, including Alex and Andy, are their highest priority. She said they will not rest until all of them are free, and that this is what keeps President Zelenskyy up at night,” Shaw said.
Drueke and Huynh were serving in the Ukrainian Army when the unit they were assigned to came under heavy fire on June 9. The families first learned the men were missing in action on June 13, and received evidence of their captivity two days later.
Drueke and Huynh are believed to have been taken into the Donetsk region, a troublesome area from a diplomatic standpoint. Russia and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) currently control the majority of the region. The U.S. does not recognize the sovereignty of the DPR and has no diplomatic relations with them, making it necessary for Ukraine to lead efforts to get Drueke and Huynh released.
Ambassador Markarova expressed deep gratitude to the American people for their prayers and support for Ukraine, according to Mrs. Drueke. “She told us it is making a big difference,” Mrs. Drueke said.
Miss Black and Mrs. Drueke recently participated in two Ukrainian-American events in observation of Ukraine’s Independence Day.
Scotty Colson, Honorary Consul for Ukraine to Alabama, introduced Miss Black and Mrs. Drueke to attendees of the Ukrainian Freedom Festival in Birmingham, Alabama on August 20. Miss Black and Mrs. Drueke also were asked to speak at a large gathering of Ukrainian-Americans, recently arrived refugees from Ukraine, and their supporters in Huntsville, Alabama on August 27.
“The more Ukrainians I meet, the more I understand why Alex fell in love with the people and the place when he got there,” Mrs. Drueke said. “They strike me as warm and kind, but also freedom-loving and determined to keep their independence. They love freedom the same way we do in America,” Mrs. Drueke said.
“When people [at the August 27 event] were asked to stand up if they had a family member serving in Ukraine, about 40 or 50 stood,” Ms. Shaw said. “Some of them had just arrived as refugees. Some of the people there also had lost family members in the war. One man’s brother had been killed in action just a month ago, and his other brother is still fighting there. Their sacrifices and their noble bearing brought me to tears,” Ms. Shaw said.
The families of Drueke and Huynh also used these events to announce the launch of a website advocating for the men’s release: www.praythemhome.net.
Participating in the September 1 video meeting in addition to Ambassador Markarova, Mrs. Drueke, Miss Black and Ms. Shaw were Miss Black’s mother, Huynh’s sisters, and a niece of Drueke’s. Representatives of the U.S. Department of State included the families’ case manager Michael Abbott, John Cooney, and four more staff members.
Ambassador Markarova was appointed Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. and arrived in Washington, D.C. on Apr 20, 2021. She served in Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance in 2015-2020 as First deputy Minister and Government commissioner on investments and then since 2018 as a Minister of Finance.