Social media keeps family connected on brink of war

Ukraine native living in Madison is hopeful diplomatic efforts can find solution
Social media keeps family connected on brink of war
Tetyana Schneider

For Tetyana Schneider, what’s happening in Ukraine is not just a conflict between two governments. It is a conflict that places her family and friends on a potential battlefield.

Twelve years ago, Schneider moved from Lutsk, Ukraine. She now lives in Madison, but with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, there is fear of further military action.

“There is a divide, fear and hope,” Schneider said.

She is hopeful for international diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the crisis. The fear comes from a deadline imposed by the Russian military for the Ukrainian military to abandon their positions.

The Russian invasion came in the wake of a government change in Ukraine. Protests in Kiev led to the deaths of more than 90 demonstrators. It also led to the exodus of the pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych.

University of Wisconsin professor David McDonald studies and teaches Russian politics. He said democracy in Ukraine has been around for 23 years, but the deep-seeded political factions and underlying economic issues take away a sense of unity in the country.

“The population is so upset about so many things. It’s like any revolution,” McDonald said. “Everybody is angry enough about something to show up at once, but what they want is not the same.”

McDonald said he expects an agreement to be reached on the Crimea region in the near future. He said there will likely be moderate sanctions to indicate displeasure in NATO and EU powers, as well as negotiations to determine a temporary, but universally accepted statehood for Ukraine. McDonald said even if those things happen, only a fraction of the crisis will be resolved.

“What we can learn from this is that state building is not something that happens overnight, and it’s been a tremendous failure in Ukraine,” McDonald said.

“I would always say that Ukraine was probably the last country in the world that would end up in what it is right now. I would never, ever think I would see the blood on the beautiful streets of Kiev,” Schneider said.

Her aunt and uncle live in her hometown of Lutsk. They have made plans to evacuate and flee into Poland if fighting erupts in Ukraine.

Schneider’s cousin, Yevgeniy Yelizariev lives in Kiev and took part in the demonstrations that led to the leadership change. He said Ukraine doesn’t have a problem with the Russian people, but does not want to be ruled by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This situation with Putin, we are afraid of this situation and we really don’t want a Putin regime, and we are ready to fight against that regime,” Yelizariev said.

He believes the situation is a very dangerous one for the entire region.

“This situation is very close to World War III,” Yelizariev said.

Schneider said as this dangerous situation is played out, she will continue to keep in touch with her family in Ukraine on social media.

“Seeing that also from my family members, through their eyes and through their stories is making it more meaningful for me as well,” Schneider said.