CHARLOTTE, NC – “It’ll just take one little thing that will turn this into war,” says South Charlotte resident Kathi Matiaszek.
Matiaszek is keeping in close contact with her brother in Kiev. He lives close to Independence Square, where violent protests broke out last month. “Right out his front window is everything that’s going on there,” Matiaszek says. She and other Ukrainians worry about the aggressive moves Russia appears to be making. “What’s to stop them, if they take over Crimea, to move into the rest of the country?” she asks.
George Gulyas works in outreach to the Ukranian community through St. Basil Catholic Mission. “We have a general concern for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, so we constantly keep them in our prayers,” he says. Gulyas says Ukrainians he talks with want to break free from Russian influence. “They’ve been separated from the Soviet block, they have their own country, they want to run it the way they see fit,” he explains.
An important distinction Ukrainians like Matiaszek emphasize. “Ukrainian is not the same as Russian. We have a different language, different culture,” she says. While she’s worried about escalating tensions… she says it’s a cause worth fighting for. “They’re not gonna give up. They want their freedom and their democracy. You know, the things we take for granted here, in America, that’s what they want,” she says.