Finding a Ukrainian in Chicago wasn’t hard. Finding one who would talk to me about Ukraine was a bit dicier. Until I met George. Months before the crisis in Ukraine erupted, a friend introduced us. Over drinks, I asked George why the older Ukrainian Village shop and restaurant owners always kept their distance from me but never took their eyes off me. Smiling, George unraveled Ukraine’s long, troubled history. A history that lingers, he explained, in a general mistrust of outsiders.That conversation was on my mind the day the crisis in Ukraine exploded.
As the weeks passed and the fighting escalated, I decided against contacting George for help with this blog. Something told me not to bother him right now. Instead, I struck out on my own. And I got lucky.
I found Olya on Twitter. She teaches at the university in Lviv, the western Ukraine city where the earliest protests and fighting began. She lives 45 miles from Lviv in Stryi. Her post comes on the heels of Through Russian Eyes, last week’s blog post with Alex, a Russian software engineer: http://www.chicagonow.com/
Their views on the conflict in Ukraine are very different.
My Conversation with Olya
How has the conflict between Russia and Ukraine affected you?
It has affected me A LOT. First, there is no conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There is a war of Russia against Ukraine. A dirty one. On a more personal level, the war has caused a break off of relations with close relatives. Even though they are Ukrainians, they live in Russia and heartedly support everything that Russia does to Ukraine now. I know I’m not the only one here who has lost connection with family or friends because of this.
What do you want Americans to know about Ukrainians?
Ukraine is not only Chernobyl or an absolutely corrupted power system. It is full of kindhearted, open-minded, candid, brave, hardworking, free-spirited people that are ready to stand up against injustice, meanness, encroachment upon their freedom and human rights. They are proud of their country, of their people, of their history and traditions.
What don’t Americans understand about the conflict in Ukraine?
It’s hard to understand any situation if you aren’t part of it or know much of its nature, history. A conflict in Ukraine was pretty much over after the criminal Yanukovych fled. Ukraine needed to get rid of the system he developed, and start new. Apparently, that was not good for Russia and the war started.
What is your opinion of the United States?
I have many friends from there. They are beautiful people. The U.S. is a very powerful country but it must use its power in the right direction, to bring good into this world and make it a better place to live.
What is your opinion of Russia?
What can be my opinion of a country that invaded my homeland in the most sly and lowdown way possible? Russia annexed part of Ukraine’s territory and then sent thugs, troops, vehicles, and heavy weapon to kill innocent people, to destroy my home. Despite all the pressure from around the world and the implemented sanctions, Russia seems to only grow its forces here. Why? Because of the imperial ambitions of one sick man! Because we dared to set ourselves free from criminal power!
Yes, I know Russia is not all like that. There are good people there who are not afraid to stand up against this. I have immense respect for those Russians. However, they are rather few. They say around 15 percent of the Russian population are “adequate”, thinking people. But where are they? Afraid to be locked up? Fifteen percent of 140 million makes 20 million people. No one is able to shut out such a mass. Maybe their time did not come yet. Hopefully some day it will, because we don’t have a lot of time to wait. We lose too much each day.
What is your greatest fear?
That I lose my faith in humanity. Somehow, if you do good to people, you believe they will respond in the same way and spread that kindness further. Sadly, that does not always work.
What gives you hope?
Pretty much the same. Seeing people do good, even knowing they will never get anything in return. Seeing things changing for the better. Believing in God, in more good than evil in this world, in a brighter future.
Who inspires you?
People who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in. Those who do things and don’t just talk about them. They are the ones that change this world.
Also, in light of these days, I am inspired by our Heavenly Hundred, and the men and boys who know they might get killed and still go to defend their land. The volunteers who risk their lives just to bring first-necessity things to the war zone.
What do you love the most about Ukraine?
Oh, where do I start? In general, I love our culture, our traditions, history, beautiful landscapes. Most of all, I love Ukraine’s free and strong spirit and our people. They are amazing.
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