Features

Crimean war

"Crimean war" Continued...

Issue: "Inside the wire," March 22, 2014

But Ukrainians also say the notion in the West of a “divided” Ukraine is oversimplified. Ukrainians say talk of a “civil war” in Ukraine based on an east-west divide is misleading, and they fear this false notion could be used by Moscow to justify land grabs in a country some are saying is destined to split.

Generally, Ukrainian is spoken more often in the west and Russian is preferred in the east. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find speakers of both throughout the country, and many Ukrainians speak both languages. One-sixth of Ukraine’s citizens are Russian by ethnicity, and many of them live in the eastern and southern parts of the country—with high concentrations in Crimea—but not all of them want to live under Russian rule.

Ukrainians turned out in full force in early March to make this point clear: In the southern city of Odessa, 10,000 people demonstrated, yelling, “Odessa isn’t Russian!” and “Out with Putin!” Thousands of people in Dnipropetrovsk, in the “Russian-speaking” east, poured into the streets to sing the Ukrainian national anthem. This was one day after pro-Russian protesters raised the Russian flag over government buildings.

“Many Ukrainians are saying people have confused divided with diverse,” said Rosylynn Prough, an orphanage worker in the western city of Zhytomyr. “Yes, different regions have different cultures including which language they prefer, but they are still Ukraine.”

UKRAINIANS, MEANWHILE, face the daunting possibility of facing Putin alone. Russia has been actively building up its military during the past decade and has amassed about 750,000 troops. Ukraine has around 150,000.

Putin has high hopes of reviving part of the old Soviet order by bringing former Soviet republics into his Eurasian Union, due to be launched in January 2015. With its strategic location, agricultural resources, and highly educated workers, Ukraine would be Moscow’s greatest prize.

“ODESSA ISN’T RUSSIAN!” Thousands of Ukranians demonstrate in Odessa.
Alexey Kravtsov/AFP/Getty Images
“ODESSA ISN’T RUSSIAN!” Thousands of Ukranians demonstrate in Odessa.
Military help from the West doesn’t seem forthcoming. The joke in Ukraine right now, according to Eide: “The West will act only when they run out of strong adjectives. So far they’re finding new ones every day.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Putin to retreat from “an incredible act of aggression,” and President Obama warned Moscow that Russian intervention in Ukraine would represent “a profound interference.”

Putin has signaled that he will use force in the region only as a last resort, but will use any means necessary to protect ethnic Russians. Crimea’s new pro-Russian premier has scheduled a status referendum for March 30, and Moscow could use the results as a pretext for annexing Crimea.

World leaders are scrambling to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and the United States, France, and Britain have discussed boycotting the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi. Kerry, who arrived in Kiev on March 4 to meet with members of the new interim government and visit the site of Ukraine’s deadly protests, has also mentioned the possibility of visa bans, asset freezes, and economic sanctions against Russia.

“Beyond diplomatic and public condemnation, there is little that the U.S. can do. President Obama has no particularly useful credibility to move the Russians,” said Steven Bucci of The Heritage Foundation. “We are likely to be an impotent bystander in the tragedy that could be unfolding.”

Caught in the chaos

The Bundys in Kiev
Handout photo
The Bundys in Kiev

Ukrainian adoption usually involves at least a handful of hurdles to cross, but Lisa and Dave Bundy’s adoption experience was more than the typical tale of delayed paperwork and frigid temperatures. It included gunfire and explosions.

The couple hadn’t considered adopting older children until last summer when they met Alla, Max, Karina, and Nastia—ages 9, 11, 14, and 16—during a Bridges of Faith program that brings Ukrainian children to the United States for a summer abroad experience. A deep bond grew between the Bundys and the children, and they decided to adopt the children.

The couple traveled to Kiev on Nov. 22, during the beginning of student-led protests that received scant attention in the West. When they arrived for their appointment with Ukraine’s State Department of Adoptions (SDA) on Nov. 26, tens of thousands of protesters had flooded the Maidan, Kiev’s city center.

Two months later, they found themselves in the thick of deadly clashes and a full-scale revolutionary movement that sent bullets flying past their apartment balcony in downtown Kiev and eventually sent the country’s former president and his political allies packing. With four scared kids in tow who spoke limited English, the family holed up in an apartment during the worst days of the conflict, but engaged in daily “recon” missions for food and the occasional photo.

The Bundys were at Nastia’s court appointment when the most intense violence erupted on Feb. 18.

The day after Kiev’s violence came to a halt, the Bundy family walked through Independence Square, strolled past the charred Trade Unions building that had served as headquarters for the protest movement, and ventured unintentionally into a memorial procession for the “heavenly hundred” who died in the clashes.

As they walked, Nastia Bundy paused to take pictures, sensing the significance of the moment. A Maidan guard, concerned about thugs still at large, escorted them to a restaurant and gave the kids a memento: a mismatched pair of gloves, covered in soot.

Dave—a 47-year-old freelance photographer—is now settling into a new life with the three younger kids back home in Montgomery, Ala., as Lisa—a 40-year-old emergency physician—wraps up the final stages in Kiev of adopting their oldest child.

Lisa hopes to fly home with Nastia in early March, and when they land, she will be the final Bundy child to be declared a U.S. citizen. But the family says Ukraine will always be in their hearts.

“The kids got to see the history of their country’s fight for democracy and freedom,” Lisa Bundy said. “It’s part of their heritage and their Ukrainian history as well as part of our history now as a family.” —J.N.

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