The billions in U.S. aid to war-torn Ukraine may be a controversial topic in the halls of Congress, but U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and the two dozen people who gathered at the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manchester Friday were united in their support.

“This is a fight that we need to continue to support,” Shaheen told the group. She recounted a meeting with women from Ukraine’s military late last year.

“One of the things that one of the young women said to me — and they were all women who had children they had to leave behind so they could fight — was, ‘You need to give us the weapons so we can fight the Russians so that we don’t have to.’ And I think that sentiment sums up why this is a fight that America and a civilized world must engage in.”

It was a sentiment shared by everyone in attendance.

“If we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine, what is next?” asked Christina Pasicznyk Vogel, who helped organize the event.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visits the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manchester to discuss U.S. support for Ukraine’s war effort, January 27, 2023.

Taras Zubrutskyy and Lesia Zubrytska left Ukraine last October with their two sons and are now in the Keene area. Shaheen’s office is helping them get a New Hampshire drivers license.

The meeting room was still decorated for Christmas, which Pasicznyk Vogel explained the church will be celebrating until February 2 in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Some in Congress believe U.S. taxpayers are playing Santa Claus to the Ukrainians and oppose the continued spending of American tax dollars on the Ukrainian government and its war effort.

Shaheen told the audience, “At this point, we have committed $26.7 billion from the United States.” But that is just the direct military aid sent as of the first of the year. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Government (CRFB) says that since Russia invaded Ukraine last February 24, “Congress has approved more than $113 billion of aid and military assistance to support the Ukrainian government and allied nations.

“Of the $113 billion approved in 2022, about three-fifths ($67 billion) has been allocated toward defense needs and the remaining two-fifths ($46 billion) to nondefense concerns such as general Ukrainian government aid, economic support, and aid for refugee resettlement,” the CRFB reports.

All four members of the New Hampshire delegation voted in favor of the $113 billion.

Asked why U.S. taxpayers should continue to pick up this tab, Shaheen told NHJournal, “It’s in our national security interest to see that he’s stopped.”

Why? “Because he is a dictator who believes that he can recreate the Soviet Union and who is looking for dominance in the world,” Shaheen said.

Foreign policy pros note that the same “dominance in the world” argument could be used about China as well.

For the folks gathered at the Blessed Virgin Mary church, the issue was personal. Nearly all have family members still in Ukraine as Putin continues his missile barrages targeting civilian targets across the country. “I’m so worried about my family,” said Galina Shuran, who came to the U.S. when Putin first invaded in 2014. “I have 60 relatives in my country… Six or seven of my neighbors have now gone to war.”

Asked about the mood of the Ukrainian community in New Hampshire, Pasicznyk Vogel said people were “concerned, but also optimistic.”

“We are very worried every single day about our loved ones being bombed in Ukraine. We worry, but we’re also hopeful when we see how much the Americans and other western countries are helping,” Pasicznyk Vogel said.

“Ukrainians decided a long time ago they will win this war.”