Far-away crisis hits home for Bend residents

Two women with ties to Ukraine offer differing views

POSTED: 7:23 PM PST March 5, 2014    UPDATED: 11:06 PM PST March 5, 2014 
Ukraine Conflict
BEND, Ore. -

The world spotlight shines on Ukraine -- from the streets of Kiev, to the Crimean peninsula.

And 25-year-old Bend resident Yara Pearson scrolls through her phone, using Facebook for updates on friends and family back home.

"There's Lenin with the Russian flag next to it," Pearson said Tuesday, displaying a friend's post. "I've been worried sick about what's going on."

But the Russian flags above her homeland are a sense of comfort in the chaos. Not just for herself, but also for her mother, father and sister in Crimea.

Pearson spent the first 19 years of her life in Crimea.

"Americans have absolutely (the) wrong idea about everything that's going on there," Pearson said. "We really hope that Russia will help us."

But not every Ukrainian, even in Bend, shares her view.

"Ukraine is a sovereign country -- it has distinct borders, and I think other countries should respect them," said Bend resident Marina Koslow said Wednesday.

 Koslow has lived for nearly a decade in Bend, but her family lives in Kiev and the nearby city of Chernihiv. She has friends who protested in Kiev's Independence  Square, also called Maidan Square.

"It's hard to see people die in the streets," Koslow said. "Being shot just for speaking their mind."

Thousand of miles from their homeland, Pearson and Koslow represent a very real divide half a world away.

"What I want America to know is Crimea is doing well," Pearson said. "Ninety percent of (the) population is happy with what's going on. We want to be protected, and that's why Russia is there."

But Koslow thinks more Ukrainians actually stands united,  and ready to find a new place of prosperity and democracy in the world.

"They're rising up in their identity as Ukraine. They don't want to be caught between Europe and Russia, they just want to have a just government," Koslow said.

Koslow said Ukrainains are proud people who haven't been proud of a corrupt government.

Meanwhile, Pearson hopes her family will become Russian citizens.

"In my heart, it's the same people to me," Pearson said. "We share the same culture, the same language."

Both women said their friends and family are safe for now, but are wary of what could come.

"The war is probable, although I hope it will never happen," Koslow said.

Pearson said life in Crimea is normal, with the added presence of Russian troops and  uncertainty lingering in the air.

"My mom told me they got a lot of food, worth for a couple months, just in case because you never know," Pearson said.

Despite different feelings about Ukraine and where the country is headed, both Bend women find common ground in hope for peace.

"Ukraine should do everything to prevent a conflict," Koslow said.

Pearson said, "All I care about it peace definitely, so I really hope it will turn out okay."

The women also agreed on what they think the U.S. should do: Sit this one out.