Fairfield County Ukrainians Worry About Violence Back Home

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The state flag of Ukraine is carried by a protester to the heart of clashes in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 18.
The state flag of Ukraine is carried by a protester to the heart of clashes in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 18. Photo Credit: Mstyslav Chernov / UnFrame

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – The volatile situation in Ukraine has far-reaching effects, but it hits home for those who live in Fairfield County but still have family and friends there.

The political climate in Ukraine has become unstable in the wake of deadly rioting and the arrival of Russian troops. 

“A lot of my family members were involved in the rioting in Kiev. They went to the protests. My cousin, who is a student in Kiev, she was very much involved in all that, she even served as a volunteer to help with those who were injured, and help to deliver food,” said the Rev. Taras Chaparin, who is with the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford. “Others went there and just stayed there to protest.”

Chaparin moved back to the United States two years ago after attending college here in 1998. His main concern now is no longer for the protesters, he said, but about what he calls the “informational battle” and getting correct information to people in Ukraine, Crimea and Russia.

The protests in Ukraine began last November when President Viktor Yanukovych announced that the county would no longer be looking to join the European Union. Violence continued to grow amid charges of corruption lodged at Yanukovych and his government. At the end of February, the country returned to the 2004 constitution and impeached Yanukovych.

“There was no recourse through any legal system or electorate system, either, because it was all run through him,” Easton resident Roma Hayda said of the protests in Ukraine. “I think the main reason he declined the EU invitation was because he would have to be accountable for the money he had collected.”

But with the rise of more unrest in Crimea and the movement of the Russian military into Ukraine under the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the state of Ukraine continues to be a tumultuous place.

“People [in Ukraine, Crimea and Russia] should know what is really happening, and if they do Putin would loose his support in a matter of days,” Chaparin said. “If Russia would say that they accept the things happening in Ukraine right now, it would mean that Russians can say if they don’t like the way things are happening.”

Many people in his congregation in Mount Kisco, N.Y., attended protests last week in Washington, D.C., calling for Putin to move his troops out of Ukraine. Others attended a prayer service, hoping for a peaceful outcome and for the safety of their loved ones.

In May, the country will have elections for a new parliament and president. Many, including Hayda and Chaparin, hope the elections will be a start to solving the problems in their home country.

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