Returning from eastern Europe, Michaela Pye is worried about her Ukrainian friends

Paul Hutchings
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Michaela Pye is worried.

The Deer Lake resident just wrapped up a trip to the Ukraine where she had been volunteering for three months with Canada World Youth. She got back Tuesday night after spending three months there, during which time revolution hit the eastern European nation.

Pye spent her time in a town called Ostroh, in the western part of the Ukraine.

She worked with mainly university students on environmental and women’s rights issues, as well as teaching English, and her concern for her Ukrainian friends is weighing on her.

“I wasn’t worried about myself while I was there so much as I was worried about them after I left,” she said, checking for messages on her computer.

“I got so close to them and I wish they didn’t live in a place where I had to worry about them.”

Tensions boiled over in the Ukraine earlier this month when demonstrations began against the country’s then-leader Victor Yanukovyc.

Those protesting were looking for increased ties to the West, while the now-absent leader wanted ties with Russia to remain in place. Yanukovyc has since been replaced and the authorities are currently searching for him. It’s a search that was brought right to Pye and her group.

A few days ago while heading to the airport, her bus was stopped at a checkpoint and an armed man boarded the bus to ask about its passengers.

“They were looking for Yanukovyc, they didn’t search us (individually) but they asked who we were and what we were doing,” she recalled. “We kept saying we’re Canadian, it’s ok.”

During the stop, she said, they looked out the windows and saw burning tires, other armed men and spikes across the roadway to ensure drivers’ cooperation in stopping. It was, she said, one of the most frightening times of her trip.

But in spite of that, she said, there wasn’t much else for her to be frightened of on a personal level. She did go to some protests, but was surprised at how low-key they were.

“The protests I saw were so peaceful, at one they served tea and cookies,” she said with a smile. “It’s very concentrated, if you were to pass by (without going into) Kiev you wouldn’t know anything was going on right now.”

But just a couple of weeks ago people were being shot, some on live television, for their cause. Ukrainians, she said, are naturally friendly people, which is one reason she is so worried for them. She unfolded a rug to underscore just how friendly they were to her.

“I walked into someone’s house and this rug was on the wall; I said I liked it and they just took it down and gave it to me,” said Pye.

Witnessing everything there firsthand has given her perspective on where she is from.

“I love the Ukraine and I’ll always have it in my heart,” she said. “But now I feel very privileged to be from Canada where democracy matters, my voice can be heard on any issue and I don’t have to fear the people who run our country.”

Pye said she’ll keep in touch with her Ukrainian friends and hope for the best.

Geographic location: Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Deer Lake Russia Kiev Canada

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Recent comments

  • cautiousincanada
    February 27, 2014 - 08:23

    It's wonderful that you had this experience, however, I'm not sure your government is what you think it is. Our government is probally as corrupt as the previous Ukrainian gov't, they just have ways of making it look less menacing, and the population has not revolted against them, otherwise they may react the same.