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SWFL Ukrainians Weigh In On War

As Russia invaded Ukraine late Wednesday night into Thursday morning, Halyna Traversa of Estero texted her cousin in southwest Ukraine to tell her to stay safe. Her cousin told her that her text was the first she knew the war had actually begun. Then later she reported, thankfully, that her family had safely evacuated to a house with a basement.

Traversa, who left Ukraine as a week-old infant in 1944, obviously keeps tabs on what is happening in the area. Even so, she was surprised by the severity of the action by Russian president Putin.

 "Never, never did I, or any of us here in the diaspora, think that he would be bombing all of Ukraine," she said.

Nataliya Slyzh Stasiw of Naples commented that the current war is an outgrowth of what’s been going on in the region for years. She came to the US from western Ukraine in 1998 when she won a visa lottery. She then went on to study International Relations and Economics in the states.

“Right now what is happening, this a continuation. Of course it’s escalated to the point where it’s costing lives," she said. "And that’s very unfortunate. But sooner or later we have to stop it. And in terms of military action, we’ve  been dealing with this since 2014. The worst for humanity is when people just get used to whatever is happening. And I feel that we got to the point that we almost got used to it. And no one is paying attention. So what is happening right now is, finally people started to again pay attention and say, okay, we gotta do something. And Putin, if he is not stopped, he will go much further than that.  And it’s going to impact the whole world. I feel that it’s already impacting. It’s not just about Ukraine versus Russia. There is so much more that is intertwined in terms of geopolitical influence on everything that we hear about.”

Traversa reminds that Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for independence.

"Ukrainians are not Russian; Russians are not Ukrainian. Yes, there has been a  forced marriage, if you will, for centuries, depending on which part of Ukraine you’re talking about, because not all of Ukraine has been under Russian control for centuries," she said. "But 30 years ago when the Soviet Union disintegrated, Ukrainians voted by 92% to become an independent country. And Russia then agreed to recognize and accept Ukraine sovereignty.”

This was all encoded in a document, Traversa said, called the Budapest Memorandum.

“So now Russia is flagrantly, flagrantly disowning, rejecting, tearing up that document," said Traversa.

Traversa went on to say that although she does not want to see American boots on the ground in Ukraine, she would like to see more help from the West. For one thing, she’d like Americans to write to their representatives and senators and ask for more aid for Ukraine, both military and humanitarian.

“I don’t know what’s going to save Ukraine  if the West doesn’t step up to the plate, to help more than it has been helping until now,” she said.

Sabrina Salovitz contributed to this story.