MANKATO — Marina Bortko doesn’t understand the points of view of Ukrainians who are proud of their home country at the moment. In fact, it upsets her.
“It’s a shame to be Ukrainian right now. It’s nothing to be proud of. It’s not a democratic process. It’s violence,” said the Mankato resident, who moved to the United States from Ukraine five years ago.
Looking at photos of Kiev before and after the turmoil is disheartening for her. The beautiful capital city, more than 1,000 years old, full of rich history and architecture, is almost unrecognizable.
“In two months, they just destroyed it,” Bortko said. “They destroyed the police stations. What for? This is your property. This is your people’s property. I just don’t understand people. It’s just childish.”
The crisis began when Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovych, in November reversed course toward further integration with the European Union and instead sought closer ties to Russia. Protests began that grew in scope over time, and violence escalated in January when the government accepted anti-protest laws.
Demonstrators occupied buildings in Kiev and riots broke out, causing thousands of injuries and 98 deaths. On Feb. 20, government gunmen and snipers killed dozens of protesters. On Feb. 22, members of Parliament decided Yanukovych needed to go, and Ukraine’s acting president is now Oleksandr Turchynov.
“What is ‘acting president’? The president still exists. (Turchynov) is not president. Nobody elected him,” Bortko said.
Bortko’s parents, Nicolay and Svetlana Bortko, are from Rivne in western Ukraine, growing up there when Ukraine was part of he Soviet Union. Her father was sent at age 24 to serve in the military in Soviet Russia, where the family lived for 25 years. Bortko was born and raised there until the age of 15 in 1987, when they moved back to Ukraine. Four years later, the Soviet Union dissolved.