Ukrainian-Americans worry about the threat of war in their homeland

As the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to rise, people living in Houston with ties to the endangered country are watching with concern and anxiety.

Of the 900,000 Ukrainian-Americans who live in the U.S., about 4,500 are spread-out across Houston, united in their concern for what's happening in their homeland.

MORE: What’s happening between Russia and Ukraine? Things to know amid push for summit

"They are in disbelief that Putin is threatening entire world that he will occupy Ukraine," says Nataliya Pashchenko. Born in Russia to Ukrainian parents, Pashchenko came to the U.S. in 2000. She still has family, including a sister, in Kyiv and spends every day looking for the latest developments.

She says Russia's assertion that a smaller, but independent Ukraine poses a threat, is nothing short of paranoid.

There is growing pessimism, however, that war can be avoided.

"Believing that someone want to kill you because they are afraid you are going to attack them, without any evidence or fact, is impossible," she says.

Hannah Uschak-Cruz grew up in the U.S., in a family that emigrated long ago, but she remains active in the city's Ukrainian community.

"Ukrainians want to live in peace in the land that they earned back in their independence," she declares.

Saying the crisis has its roots in Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Uschak-Cruz describes the tension is all-consuming, with a looming heartbreak at the thought that war might break-out.

"It's excruciating. Like we're going back in time to an overpowered country that doesn't have freedoms," she says.

MORE: UN security council to hold emergency meeting amid Ukraine crisis

And for those who may think this brewing crisis in a faraway land is of no concern, Uschak-Cruz says, "If we don't stop in Ukraine, where else will they go? Where else will Russia try to take over?"

In the short term, Pashchenko is worried about her immediate family and her disabled sister in Kyiv, and the thought she might have to go there to get her sister out before she's further endangered.

In broader terms, both women are staunch advocates of stiff penalties before war starts, as a tool to help dissuade Russia from further action.