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“The hardest part is being away from my family,” says Monterey Institute student Nadiya Gapotchenko (MATI ‘14) about the crisis in her home country, Ukraine. She grew up in a Russian-speaking environment in Crimea, the peninsula in southern Ukraine that is at the center of what has been called the biggest crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Nadiya says that reports from her family back home in Crimea depict a more stable situation than what she sees in the media here in the U.S., but that she is constantly trying to sort through the news. She explains that people in Crimea get most of their news from Russian sources and that the messages they are hearing are almost opposite of what is being said in Western media.

Her husband, who is currently working in the capital city of Kiev, was supposed to join her here in the U.S. soon, but those plans have been upset by the crisis and now they don’t know when he will be able to leave the Ukraine. “The uncertainty of the situation is particularly difficult,” Nadiya shares, adding that there have been periods that she has “literally been scared for my family’s lives.”

A referendum has been scheduled for March 16, offering residents of Crimea two choices; to retain the status of Crimea as part of the Ukraine or to re-unite with Russia as a constituent part of the Russian Federation. There seems little doubt of an overwhelming vote to re-unite with Russia. Nadiya says she believes part of the tensions between the more Western-leaning part of Ukraine and the East, where ties with Russia are stronger, can be traced back in history and that languages are often used as a political tool to create a wider gap between Ukrainians. That said, she adds that the issue is more complicated than that and explains that even within her own family opinions differ greatly.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir