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Sunday marks the eighth Father's Day since I lost my dad. After he died in 2015 at age 92 in a New Prague nursing home, I assumed the passage of time would blur my memories of him. The opposite instead has proven true, and the tragic reason for that unexpected clarity — Russia's war on Ukraine — makes me miss him even more yet grateful he isn't alive to witness the devastation in his homeland.

Eugene Kuz was born in 1923 in Lviv, a city then inside Poland's borders. His Ukrainian parents, both Lviv natives, raised him and his brothers with a deep sense of pride in their true mother country and with an equal distrust of Russia.

A few weeks before he turned 16 in 1939, Ukraine reabsorbed Lviv after the Soviet Union, led by Joseph Stalin, annexed a portion of eastern Poland on the eve of World War II. German forces invaded Ukraine in 1941, and two years later, Eugene abandoned his medical studies to enlist in the country's independent army.

He and his comrades, assembled under German command but vowing to free Ukraine from all foreign control, fought against the Red Army. Above all, they wanted Ukrainians to escape the Soviet oppression that reached its brutal apex under Stalin, with millions dying in forced labor camps, mass purges and a state-imposed famine now known as the Holodomor.

Along with several members of his unit, Eugene wound up in a British prisoner of war camp in Italy months before Germany surrendered in 1945. He knew that, for the "crime" of fighting for Ukraine's sovereignty, the Soviet machine would execute him if he returned home.

So following a decade spent between England and Ireland during which he resumed his education, he arrived in the United States in 1955. He resettled in the Twin Cities to piece together his shattered future, and in the ensuing decades, he pursued and achieved the American dream.

In the 1960s, Eugene married, started a family and established a solo family medical practice in Savage, where I grew up as the youngest of his three children in the house he built with my mother, Ingrid. He went on to earn U.S. citizenship, embracing his new country with an immigrant's ardor but without forsaking his love for Ukraine — or his scorn for its much larger neighbor.

He distilled his disdain into a credo: "Never trust Russia."

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last year served as grim validation of my father's abiding suspicions. For months, Western military and political analysts had speculated that Putin was bluffing. I lacked their lofty academic pedigrees. But they lacked Eugene as a father.

What he taught me about Ukraine explains, in large part, why I found myself in the capital of Kyiv as the first missiles fell, and why I continue traveling to the country to report on the suffering and resolve of its people. I want to honor his memory and all that he lost 80 years ago by telling the stories of Ukrainians once more under siege from Russia.

After the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 and Ukraine gained its overdue independence, two factors prevented Eugene from returning to his birthplace. At first, he remained wary about the potential for arrest — the Kremlin's shadow still loomed. Later, declining health robbed him of the vitality that had enabled him to survive so much hardship and sorrow to rebuild his life.

I finally made my initial visit to Ukraine in 2014, a year before his death. I stood before the graves of his mother, father and brothers that he never saw again after fighting for Ukraine's freedom. In that moment, I felt in some primal way that I had come home.

My reporting trips there since the invasion began have revealed to me in finer detail why my father longed to set foot again in his birthplace. As the world and Russia have learned, Ukrainians possess an intense love of country that binds fierce defiance to profound compassion, inherent self-sacrifice and an indomitable strength of spirit.

I recognized those traits — those democratic ideals — in my father, who would have turned 100 this year. Russia's latest assault on Ukraine has deepened my bond with him long after I last hugged him goodbye. But there is one thing I yearn for much more than a final conversation with him: The end of this terrible war.

Martin Kuz, a native Minnesotan, is an independent journalist covering Ukraine. Twitter: @MartinKuz.