We were at Dr. Laura Kline's Russian class at Wayne State University for a "Ukraine Today" program. The women from Starobelsk and surrounding villages in eastern Ukraine talked eloquently about how much the Open World educational exchange meant to them.
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Burtyn, with Tamara
The women talked about "Ukraine Today," the theme of the program. Of course it's impossible to address this topic without talking about the war raging in the east. Vera wanted people to know that "the war is not a civil war. It is an invasion and occupation. Russia has invaded Ukraine, with troops, tanks and weapons, caused many deaths, and there's no end in sight." She said she worried about her son Konstantin, 24, who joined a volunteer militia to defend Starobelsk from the war that's only 20 miles away.
A huge problem now is the refugee crisis, the women agreed. For example, the population of Starobelsk has almost tripled, we learned, with thousands fleeing from the fighting in southern Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts with little more than the clothes on their backs. It's a huge humanitarian crisis.
But these women from Ukraine, who are keeping body and soul together, keeping families and communities going, won't let a war stop them. They will continue to fight, assist in the war effort, and do what they can about the refugee crisis. Meanwhile, they are concerned about their national government and its ability during war to address the serious needs of the people of Ukraine. Many are unemployed. Many are homeless. Many who do work are not even getting paid, teachers, nurses and health care workers. "Who knows what the future will bring?"
After the class the women were invited to tour the Detroit Ukrainian community, organized by the indefatiguable Vera Andrushkiw of the Ukraine-American Foundation, who lives in Detroit. A church, cultural center, meal and songfest were highlights.
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