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Local Ukrainians Watch, Wait As Conflict Continues

PHOTO: Michigan's Ukrainian community has held several rallies like this one to raise awareness and show support for their homeland, while also working to gather donations and send medical supplies and other needed items overseas. Photo courtesy of M. Howlyrak.
PHOTO: Michigan's Ukrainian community has held several rallies like this one to raise awareness and show support for their homeland, while also working to gather donations and send medical supplies and other needed items overseas. Photo courtesy of M. Howlyrak.
March 11, 2014

DETROIT, Mich. - As events continue to unfold and tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine in the Crimean Peninsula, members of Michigan's large and active Ukrainian community are watching closely and mobilizing to help.

Olena Palyvoda, vice president of the Ukrainian American Civic Committee, spends her days as an engineering professor at Wayne State University, and all her spare time staying abreast of the latest news from her homeland and checking in on relatives. The Ukrainian immigrant said as scary as it is, she respects the principles her people are standing up for.

"They want freedom to speak, freedom to live, freedom to make a right choice, and freedom to elect. And I wish our country will be having those values soon and people don't need to die for it," Palyvoda said.

Michigan has roughly 40,000 residents of Ukrainian descent, according to the U.S. Census. In recent weeks, the Ukrainian community in Detroit has held many rallies and educational events, and hosted speakers to bring attention to the conflict.

For Palyvoda, access to information is one of the most frustrating issues right now, because many legitimate news sources in the region have been shut down. Still, she said she remains hopeful for a peaceful resolution to the situation.

"We have to find ground where everyone could peacefully bring their concerns and solve this problem while we are just going to a democratic country and building our country again right now," she said.

President Obama is expected to meet with Ukraine's prime minister on Wednesday, in a show of support for the fledgling new government.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI