Mid-Michigan Ukrainians worried about homeland - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Mid-Michigan Ukrainians worried about homeland

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(02/19/14) - Officials in Ukraine are making it clear that the country's army is ready to act against anti-government protesters.

The violence is the worst in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed the capital, Kiev.

The Ukrainian community in the Flint area is keeping a close eye on the situation. Ukrainians began to move into the Flint area soon after World War II to work in General Motors auto plants. Through the years, they have maintained contact with friends and relatives in Ukraine.

Ukrainians built St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mt. Morris Township and it's a center of their lives. The unrest is causing concern here at home.

"It's at the point where people that I discussed it with are basically saying we have no recourse. We either have freedom or we're going to be dead," said Nyk Bartkiw of Flushing.

Bartkiw's parents were born in Ukraine and he has visited his ancestral nation, including once in 2004 as election observer. What he's hearing from loved ones there is frightening.

"Protests in Ukraine are no longer allowed. Anybody who protests or gathers, you have ten years to fifteen years or imprisonment," Bartkiw said.

Those daring to stand up to the government of President Yanukovych are being treated harshly.

"People are abducted, imprisoned, beaten, start disappearing," Bartkiw said.

While most of the disturbances and demonstrations are in the capital city of Kiev, Bartkiw says he's hearing from his contacts that the pro-democracy push is being felt in the other parts of the country too. But the situation is still precarious. And he knows they're concerned.

"You'd have to be out of touch with reality not to be worried for safety," Bartkiw said.

He hopes the European Union can impose sanctions that will restore order.

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