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Published: Tuesday, 3/4/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Locals with ties to Ukraine watch crisis warily

Many worry about invasion by Russia, hope Western nations intervene

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur says Ukraine deserves help from the West. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur says Ukraine deserves help from the West.
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As a new country with little experience in the ways of democratic independence, Ukraine needs the support of the United States and Europe, and not an invasion from its big neighbor, Russia, say local Americans of Ukrainian descent.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who has developed close relationships in her ancestral homeland over the last 40 years, said Ukraine deserves the help of the West.

And a Ukrainian woman living in Toledo while studying mental health counseling at the University of Toledo said her country wants peace and independence.

“I want my country to stay a country. I’m worried that the next time I go home it’s not going to be Ukrainian any more,” said Kateryna Kuzubova, 28, who is in a PhD program. She acknowledged that there is “tension” in Crimea because of the heavy Russian naval presence there, but does not believe Russia is justified in invading the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

She said the majority of Ukrainians do not support the Russian military move into Crimea, and those who do are influenced by what she called a dishonest news media.

“I think a majority of people in Ukraine are not happy with what happened,” said Ms. Kuzubova, who herself is from the eastern, Russian-speaking side of Ukraine.

Every Sunday, the congregation of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Rossford prays for peace, independence, and unity in their homeland, said the Rev. George Mullonkal, pastor.

“It’s really bad, awful, what’s happening,” Father Mullonkal said. “Definitely they want to keep it together. We have special prayers for peace and to keep independent, and in one piece, not divided.”

He said most of the approximately 60 or 70 families are now in the third or fourth generation since immigrating, while newer arrivals are going to Detroit and Cleveland.

Marta Liscynesky Kelleher, president of United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio, said she believes all Ukrainian-Americans living in Ohio want Russia out of Ukraine.

“It is the issue of maintaining the integrity of Ukraine that is on the minds of most people that are of Ukrainian descent that are living in the States here,” Mrs. Kelleher said.

Mrs. Kelleher said about 50,000 Ohioans trace their families to Ukraine, and about 80 percent of them live in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs, especially Parma — which shares the 9th Congressional District with Toledo.

She called for NATO and Ukraine to move up the timetable for joint military exercises and called for deployment of international monitors from NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“From Russia’s history, it would not be surprising that the next step in this plan is they continue on into eastern Ukraine,” Mrs. Kelleher said.

Miss Kaptur co-chairs the Ukraine Congressional Caucus, which helped push through a resolution in support of Ukraine’s reform movement in February, before Russia President Vladimir Putin sent Russian forces into Crimea.

She said Russia is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, so it has plenty of leverage to address unrest on its borders with Ukraine without taking unilateral military action.

She did not rule out military action by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“It is difficult to predict what else NATO might do militarily — admit Ukraine and Georgia to its ranks — and take action, or work with Turkey to achieve a blockade. There are many military options,” Miss Kaptur said.

Fran Cary of Sylvania spent two years in Starobelsk, Ukraine. Fran Cary of Sylvania spent two years in Starobelsk, Ukraine.

Ukraine’s history has been one of frequently being invaded, crossed, or occupied by large neighboring countries. Since 1991, however, it has been its own country, struggling under corruption and a lack of laws that respect private property, Miss Kaptur said.

Miss Kaptur said the world community “owes” its support to Ukraine for failing to stand up for the country in the past, especially when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin deliberately starved millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s.

Miss Kaptur’s maternal grandparents immigrated from Ukraine early in the 20th century. Miss Kaptur made the first of about a dozen trips to Ukraine starting in 1973, making contact with her mother’s uncle. She said her last trip there was in July.

Sylvania resident Fran Cary, a retired college history teacher at the University of Toledo and other colleges, served a two-year tour with the Peace Corps in Starobelsk, eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, during 2009-2011.

As close as Ukrainians are to Russia in language and culture, she doesn’t believe they want to be back under Russian control.

“I think they want to determine their own destiny. Honestly, some of them might not mind having Russia there, but I think the majority of the people want to determine their own government and their own destiny,” Ms. Cary said.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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