Ukraine conflict touches Bandera
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Despite an uneasy calm, Ukraine remains an unsettled country due to the violent clashes between citizens and government that grew out of last year's peaceful demonstrations.
Until the recent resignation of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, each day brought more destruction around Independence Square, Kiev's Ground Zero. However, Ukraine's capital city is not the only municipality affected by the unrest.
Special Ambassador Elenora Dugosh Goodley has contacted her colleague, Mykola Nagornyi, who serves as Bandera's sister city official in Ukraine. He is also chairman of the Tysmenytsia District Council.
In 2010, when Nagornyi visited Bandera on a fact-finding tour, he stayed with Goodley and her husband, John. "The year after that we signed our sister city proclamations," Goodley recalled, enabling Tysmenytsia to become part of Bandera's sister city-county program.
That same year, Goodley was confirmed as director and ambassador of the newly formed Bandera County Sister Partnership Association (BCSPA) by Bandera County Commissioners Court. Grateful for her tireless promotion of Bandera County in Eastern Europe, last year, commissioners extended her term as special ambassador until 2017.
As Goodley noted, "Mykola is in Yonkers, New York, on business, but his family remains in Ukraine. We are very concerned about the situation has now spread into the Ivano-Frankivsk region where Tysmenytsia is located."
According to Goodley, officials in Strzelce Opolskie, Bandera's sister city-county in Poland, have geared up to assist refugees who are apparently pouring across the border from Ivano-Frankivsk and Tysmenytsia. On Thursday, Feb. 20, news reports indicated that several towns on Ukraine's border with Poland had fallen to those opposed to the present government.
"Officials have been working with the Red Cross to transport medicines and establish a field hospital," Goodley said.
The toll of dead and wounded Ukrainian protestors increased daily, but reports coming out of the embattled capital could not be confirmed.
"The situation is spreading and now historic Liev is confronted with fires burning throughout the beautiful city," Goodley noted. In 2011, she, along with Precinct 4 Commission Doug King, Chairman of the Bandera County Historical Commission Roy Dugosh and Bandera ISD teacher Erin Gray, visited Tysmenytsia, touring many of the cities now included in the conflict. "Liev is less than 1,000 miles from Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics," Dugosh said.
Russia & Ukraine
Some have speculated that Russian strongman President Vladimir Putin would have made short shrift of Ukraine's bid for freedom had he not been otherwise occupied with the Sochi Olympics.
"The protests began when the government of Ukraine refused to hear the voice of its people who voted to join the European Union," Goodley continued. "The people want to be free from Russia."
Three months ago, Yanukovych crawfished from a nearly finalized trade pact with the European Union after Putin purportedly made him an offer he couldn't refuse. With Ukraine's economy in tatters, Yanukonvych accepted with alacrity Putin's offer of a $15 billion bailout - and public sentiment be dammed. The resultant protests began because the populace wanted closer ties to the West as opposed to being absorbed by Mother Russia. However, the protests soon morphed into something more.
The government's main opposition, Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms Party, headed by former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, now demands constitutional reforms that would limit presidential power and give more authority to parliament. Additionally, after Yanukovych hightailed it out of Kiev, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from a so-called "penitentiary hospital."
An alpine skier from Ukraine pulled out of the Olympics in solidarity with the protestors. Her protest echoed that of stellar gymnast Vera Caslavska of then-Czechoslovakia, who staged a silent protest during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
While on the podium, Caslavska turned her head down and to the right during the Soviet national anthem in condemnation of USSR's invasion of her country that crushed a nationalistic uprising, known as the Prague Spring. The Communist iron fist held sway in Czechoslovakia until 1989.
Just two days before Yanukovych's resignation on Saturday, Feb. 22, and subsequent flight from Kiev, snipers opened fire on protestors killing from 70 to 100, reports stated.
Chronicling the massacre and its aftermath, Nagornyi wrote to Goodley, "These days, events in Ukraine are changing so fast, it is difficult to write. In a great tragedy, more than a hundred people have been shot and more than 500 have serious injuries. Many are missing. This is a tragedy for Ukraine with crying mothers, fathers, sisters and all who care.
"The President and his entourage have escaped and are hiding somewhere, but we currently have no information where they are. Protesters have survived, but at the cost of great sacrifices."
A warrant has been issued for Yanukivych's arrest for "crimes against humanity," stemming from his alleged order for riot police to fire on unarmed civilians.
In earlier emails to Goodley, Nagornyi remained optimistic about his country. "I believe that the protesters will be victorious. Although I am in Yonkers, my heart and soul remain in Ukraine."
Nagornyi recently spoke with his family by telephone and Skype. "Events in Kiev and in many cities of Ukraine cannot leave anyone indifferent. I worry about us and our beautiful country. The government's inhumane actions and abuse of power caused much dissatisfaction among people, who responded with protests that have now lasted over 90 days. Unfortunately, power is often synonymous with extremism."
Appreciative for Goodley's support, Nagornyi gave her an account of earlier events in Kiev, "The standoff continues. The protestors stand there and fight for a better future for their children and grandchildren. Dream and believe that the time will come again when our families can sit together at the dinner table in peace and freedom and be happy that we met."
According to Nagornyi, on Tuesday, Feb. 24, an 19-year-old student killed during the protests will be buried in Ivano-Frankivsk. "Fortunately, no one from Tysmenytsia was killed," he added.
'Pray for Ukraine'
"I encourage everyone to pray for the Ukrainian people and our sister city-county," Goodley said. "I pray for everybody in the Ukraine and that they win their independence. May God bless the people of Ukraine and give them strength to fight and win their freedom."