Ukrainian students react to events in their homeland


It’s a Saturday afternoon and Orian Shkrobut, senior, is walking around downtown’s Ukrainian Village holding a large blue and yellow “Ukraine is Europe,” sign. Instead of spending his weekend relaxing or sleeping in, Shkrobut is participating in protests against government actions in the Ukraine.

“I’m in the Ukrainian village almost weekly on the weekends attending a protest or organized meeting. Last weekend, I listened to Senator Dick Durbin call for U.S action in Crimea and Ukraine,” Shkrobut said.

Tension has been rising in Ukraine since last November when president Victor Yanukovych chose to accept a $15 billion economic bailout package from Russia rather than singing an association agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union.  Ukraine used to be part of the USSR until it’s 1991 fall and has since worked to distance itself from the country.

“For the people of Ukraine, this was the last straw. In January, the protests became attacks on the people by the  ‘Berkut’ riot police, who are notorious for murdering, decapitating, shooting, and torturing protesters,” Shkrobut said.

In response to these protests Russia sent troops into the Crimea, an autonomous part of the country. Agreements between the countries allow Russia to have some troops in the area, however the troops are acting out of line, according to Shkrobut.

“These Russian soldiers are equipped with live rounds and are wielding their weapons on Ukrainian residents in Crimea. In fact, when the Ukrainian army commander and a few of his troops approached the Russians unarmed, the Russians began firing shots into the air above the unarmed Ukrainians,” Shkrobut said.

Senior Maryana Stryelkina has also been involved in local demonstrations. Stryelkina goes to the Consulate of Ukraine or the Ukrainian Village to support these protests every other Sunday.

“I am inspired that my people, after so many years of Russian discrimination and forced Ukrainian assimilation into Russian culture and language, finally said ‘that’s enough.’ I am strong supporter of demonstrators, and I hope that this people will make the change and Ukrainians will become free from Russia occupation,” Stryelkina said.

Both students stress the importance of these protests and understand the dangers their fellow Ukrainian’s are in.

“Friends of my Ukrainian friends were killed by sniper shots. My friend’s cousin was helping the protesters when suddenly a sniper bullet penetrated his helmet and his skull, died on the spot,” Shkrobut said.

“All of my friends which are college or high school students are in Kiev right now, and they all are fighting for their freedom,” Stryelkina said.