Ukrainians, Russians in Mid-Michigan worry for friends and family near conflict

Ukrainians-Russians in Mid-Michigan worry for friends and family near conflict
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:22 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - President Joe Biden announced the first sanctions against Russia Tuesday as tensions rise in neighboring Ukraine.

But here in Mid-Michigan, Ukrainians and Russians with families in the region are worried for their safety.

Mason Harvath-Gerrans, a Ukrainian-born MSU student from Horlivka, Donets’k Oblast, spoke with news 10 on behalf of the Ukrainian Student Organization at MSU. He’s been keeping a close eye on his homeland.

“There is so much uncertainty. I mean some are going to stay and fight. And some are going to have to flee they have no choice.” said Harvath.

But Harvath made this statement two weeks ago and since then, a lot has happened.

Related: Ukrainian MSU students keep close eye on Ukraine, worry about loved ones

“All I can do is wish those that are in Ukraine to be safe and if the war continues to spread, to become bigger than it already is,” said Harvath. “That if they chose to stay and fight that they defend Ukraine will all their might.”

Tuesday, Harvath still worries about his friends in Ukraine but also worries about what will happen to Ukraine if the war escalates further.

“I mean a lot of us to fear that it is the annexation of Ukraine itself,” said Harvath.

Ukrainians aren’t the only ones watching. Leo Poroshin, a Russian-born, Mid-Michigan resident grew up in Moscow. He moved to Michigan in 1992. He worries about how sanctions could impact his loved ones in Russia.

“I’m concerned about the quality of life. Because the west’s imposed sanctions usually don’t hurt people in power, as the intent is,” said Poroshin. “It’s the regular people that bear the brunt of it.”

Read: West hits back with sanctions as Russia pushes into Ukraine

Both Poroshin and Harvath have Russian and Ukrainian friends with who they share concerns. They said it is important to look at the people behind the conflict and keep in mind that average people are not to blame.

“The Russians I know personally, one of them is my very best friend. “I’m not going to ask her why she’s invading Ukraine,” said Harvath.

Poroshin shares those thoughts. He says it’s important to remember that like every conflict, the people behind it are everyday people like you and me.

“Over here I think we’re focusing more on connection rather than the rift,” said Poroshin.

More: War fears grow as Putin orders troops to eastern Ukraine

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