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'They're fighting for independence': Local woman shares her thoughts on the conflict in Ukraine

"They do not believe the war will really happen."
Alena Yarmolyuk and her husband at a Ukraine Cafe
Posted at 9:41 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 00:07:02-05

MILWAUKEE — Tensions continue to rise between Russia and Ukraine. Last week, President Biden warned Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately.

Maria Haigh watches Ukrainian TV often, partly because she studies disinformation as an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, but also because she was born in Ukraine and some of her friends and family are still there.

Maria Haigh at age 8 in Ukraine
Maria Haigh at age 8 in Ukraine

"What my friends are saying is that in Kyiv they are distributing signs, flyers and maps of where the closest bomb shelters are," Haigh said.

Which she said isn't completely unusual. In fact, as a child she said she also learned about bomb shelters.

"Actually, we did have gas masks and as children we did know how to use them," she said.

Even with thousands of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, Haigh said life for her loved ones hasn't changed.

"Everything in life is normal," Haigh said. "All the restaurants are open."

Haigh adds that her loved ones do not believe the war will really happen.

Alena Yarmolyuk and her husband at a Ukraine Cafe
Alena Yarmolyuk and her husband at a Ukraine Cafe

TMJ4's Ubah Ali spoke to Alena Yarmolyuk, who is currently living in Ukraine. She too said nothing is out of the ordinary in Kyiv.

"It became usual to understand that war is near you," Yarmolyuk said.

By that, she means that Ukrainians have lived with the fear of a possible invasion for years, so they've learned to accept the reality.

"I think that our police is ready for a situation," Yarmolyuk said. "But, people are living as usual right now."

In fact, Haigh shared a video of Ukrainians coming together to sing the national anthem.

"It starts with 'Ukraine is not dead yet.' We will fight for it and all of our adversaries will disappear," she said.

Both Yarmolyuk and Haigh say people are in good spirits in Ukraine.

Haigh adds that she will continue to keep a close eye on what happens. Ultimately, her greatest hope is that Russia does not invade Ukraine.

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