Bortko lived in the Dnipropetrovs'k area with her two children (now age 20 and 25) until five years ago, when they moved to the United States. Bortko had been introduced by friends to a Minnesota man whom she would marry. The two carried on a long-distance relationship until she and her children, Alina and Kirill, moved here.
“For years we communicated by letters,” Bortko said. “It’s a love story.”
Bortko’s parents, age 75, still live in Dnipropetrovs'k. Until recently, they had been visiting her in Mankato for six months, and during that time the turmoil in Ukraine began.
“When it started, it was a shock. They were afraid. The news was terrible,” Bortko said.
But the couple still returned to Ukraine on March 1. Bortko talks with her parents as often as she can. They don’t live downtown, and they don’t go into the squares, she said, which makes her worry less. They watch the news to stay aware of where the unsafe areas are.
One side effect of the unrest that has affected the couple is the skyrocketing prices of everyday living expenses in Ukraine. They have discussed moving to the United States, but at age 75, they wouldn’t be able to work to support themselves, so it likely isn’t financially feasible.
In the meantime, Bortko said she’s saddened to watch the events unfold in her home country, and she doesn’t understand the violence.
“They don’t have jobs. They don’t have income. They don’t have anything to do, so they come to the square,” she said.
“What I see and hear doesn’t cause any desire to go back, and I can’t change it,” she said. “People are really afraid.”