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Op-Ed: What does the Russian-Ukrainian war mean for the Russian and Ukrainian Americans living here in Sacramento?

Sacramento has always thrived on diversity. One particularly unique result of this diversity is the
large population of people with foreign backgrounds, including those of Russian and Ukrainian
descent. Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing both Russian Americans and Ukrainian
Americans at Green fair Apartments, which has a significant population of both groups.

In order to paint a full picture of the Russian American and Ukrainian American perspectives, I
wanted to ask some broader, more global questions, before moving on to more local topics.
The first person I had a chance to talk to was Kseniya, a 73-year-old Ukrainian woman who was
born in Russia. I first asked Kseniya about her thoughts on the current situation, to which she

“I’m worried… I pray about peace every day. I have a lot [of] relatives who live in Ukraine. I was
before [in] Ukraine too. Every day, I watch the computer or [the] news. I watch, worry. It’s difficult, very
difficult for people. Small kids, no food, very cold outside. Go [to] other countr[ies], a lot [of] people
cry because [they] want to live in your country but cannot.”

Kseniya further expressed that the conflict has begun to spread to every aspect of her life. Her
conversations with friends have become discussions about the war, her TV is always switched to
the news and her relationships with others have started to deteriorate. It is evident that a war
between two countries can nevertheless have devastating impacts on its citizens living in
foreign countries.

The next person I had a chance to talk to was Maxim, a 56-year-old Belarusan man who
lived in Ukraine for 20 years. I first asked him how he believed we could help the fleeing
Ukrainians here in Sacramento.

Maxim: “Give food, water, [a] place to sleep. Help… pray. Yes. People running away is very
hard. Give money [to them].”
Me: “Donate money?”
Maxim: “Yes, yes, donate. Tell friends, give time to help people [live a] better life.”
Me: “Volunteer?”
Maxim: “Give time to help, [it’s] very difficult, kids [have] no home.”

Many religious groups, some of which are based in Sacramento, have provided foreign aid to
Ukrainians. Maxim later told me that he often goes to his local Eastern Orthodox Church to pray
for the victims as well as donate money whenever he has the chance. He also said that both
Ukrainians and Russians frequently come together during service to set aside their differences
and pray together.

Lastly, I had a chance to speak with Borys, a 74-year-old Russian immigrant who came to
America after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I asked him if there existed any tensions
between the Ukrainian and Russian American communities.

Borys: Talking about this… I’m from Putin, others from Zelensky, [when they] get talking, it
promotes fight[s]. It’s not good.
Me: People are fighting over this?
Borys: I try not to. I [don’t talk] about it, because it’s not useful.
Me: So people are like, conflicted over this.
Borys: Yes. Very, very. [They don’t] sleep at night.

When I asked other residents of the apartments the same question, many responded with a
similar sentiment. It seems that although many Ukrainian and Russian citizens have put aside
their differences in the struggle against Putin’s war, ill feelings still exist between these groups,
at least on a local level.

In general, the residents living at Green fair Apartments have provided a unique perspective on
how foreign conflicts can affect people, sometimes even halfway across the world. Their stories
foster themes of sadness and division, but also that of fighting for a better, more peaceful future.
In these times, we should all do our best to support the Ukrainian community by donating
money, volunteering our time, and coming together to pray.

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