City Hall in downtown Tuscaloosa will be lit in Ukrainian blue and yellow in solidarity with Alex Drueke, a local man who was captured by Russian forces while volunteering in eastern Europe.

For the uninitiated, Drueke is a 40-year-old Tuscaloosa man and U.S. Army Veteran who decided to travel to the warzone shortly after Russian invaded Ukraine in February.

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Dianna Shaw, Drueke's aunt and a spokeswoman for his family, said he left the U.S. in mid-April, legally entered Poland and made contact with Ukrainian forces from there to volunteer. Shaw said he moved from unit to unit, helping train Ukrainian soldiers in using the equipment they were receiving from other nations.

On June 13th, Drueke and another Alabama man, Andy Huynh, were traveling with a Ukrainian unit when they came under heavy fire from Russian forces.

Drueke and Huynh were separated from the group and it is now known that they were captured and are being held as prisoners of war, likely in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed forces have control of the region.

In a Monday night update from the Drueke family, Shaw said Alex was able to communicate directly with his family this weekend after his captors worked with the U.S. State Department to allow him to speak on a telephone.

Shaw said Alex told his family that he is OK, receiving food and water and has shelter and bedding.

“We want to believe all these things, and it is Russia's responsibility to make sure it's all true,” Shaw said in an update provided to the Thread. “Having Alex call and say these things tells me that Russia knows the world is watching how they treat the two men. Russia has the influence over their surrogates to see that Alex and Andy are given humane treatment as POWs and eventually released unharmed."

She said while the US Government is doing its best to bring the two men home, negotiating with Russia for their release is ultimately a Ukrainian responsibility.

“Alex and Andy are Ukrainian Army volunteers with U.S. citizenship,” Shaw said. “Since the U.S. is ‘on the sidelines’ of the war, it’s up to the Ukrainian government to take the lead on any potential negotiations or prisoner exchanges."

In an encouraging update, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly acknowledged the men this weekend, calling them heroes and vowing to fight to get them back to their families.

As the Drueke family and others around the city, state, nation and world continue to hope for a good outcome for the prisoners of war, Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox said Tuesday that City Hall will be lit blue and yellow this week in Drueke's honor.

For more updates on this matter as they become available, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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