Events in Ukraine hit close to home for Scott City woman
By Rod Haxton, editor
Ukraine is more than just a country locked in a battle to maintain its independence from Russia.
It’s also home to Anya Kasselman. And the Scott City resident feels helpless and worried as she skypes with family members and searches the internet for the latest news about her homeland.
“I want to be there and help,” says Kasselman, who speaks very good English, though she still carries a heavy accent from her upbringing in Ukraine.
“I know I can’t go because I have a family here. But I also have a family there and I worry about them,” she says. “I know the danger they are in.
“My folks say they are patriots. They want to stay until the end. They don’t want to abandon their country,” says Kasselman.
She comes from a well-educated family and has grown up learning four languages. Kasselman’s father is a university professor.
Kasselman was born and raised in Zaporizhia, which is located in eastern Ukraine and is the region facing the most immediate danger of a Russian invasion. She met her husband, Joel, while they were both missionaries in the Campus Crusades for Christ. The couple has lived in Scott City for the past five years.
Even though she is both Ukrainian and Russian, Kasselman’s heart is with the Ukrainian people. When visiting with family she hears the horror stories of persecution and young men who are killed while trying to defend their homeland.
“One boy put on his Facebook that it’s time for a free Ukraine and he was captured and tortured,” says Kasselman.
She says the cities in eastern Ukraine that are near the Russian border are being taken over by Russian military. She has been told of one village where every household has lost at least one male because of the conflict with Russia.
“My hometown is pretty much getting ready for an attack. They know it’s coming. It’s just a matter of when,” she says. “Friends have posted on Facebook they are digging trenches.”
In order to prevent the infiltration of Russian troops or sympathizers who will bring weapons into their cities, Ukrainian troops will check every vehicle as it enters town. But, she adds, they know they don’t have the manpower or weapons to withstand a Russian attack.
“They know the Russians will be overwhelming,” she notes.
The Ukrainian people are looking to the West - the U.S. and Europe - for military assistance. Kasselman says the people will fight their own war if they have the weapons.
“The Ukrainian people feel forgotten. They feel abandoned by the U.S. and Western Europe,” she says. “They’ve always considered the U.S. an ally.”
At the same time, Kasselman is blunt in her assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin is evil,” she says emphatically. “He says he can take over our country in two hours.”
What makes him even more dangerous, says Kasselman, is that he wants to stay in power at all costs.
“Putin doesn’t care what the U.S. or the U.N. or Germany have to say. He’ll do whatever it takes to stay in power,” she says.
“I don’t hate the Russian people. They suffer under Putin the way the Ukrainian people do,” she points out. “But I hate Putin’s ideology. He’s put my people in danger.”
She says that danger also extends into neighboring Georgia who also face the risk of an invasion.
While the Ukrainian people are most in need of weapons to defend themselves, Kasselman has also been helping to raise money for food, clothing and other basic needs for the refugees. With the approaching winter she says the people will suffer even more without outside help.
“People live their happy lives here in the U.S. and don’t want to be bothered by the world’s problems,” Kasselman observes. “But there isn’t a night that I don’t cry about what’s happening. I worry that I will never see my family again.”
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