Gina Bondarenko is a second-year Honors College student, majoring in psychology and minoring in marketing, at Rutgers University–Camden. She is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine, located about 300 miles east of Kiev, and a 30-minute drive to the Russian border. She moved with her parents to the United States at seven years old in October 2000. The family currently resides in Brooklyn.
Bodarenko shares her personal perspective and insight into the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, as well as her hopes for a peaceful resolution and sovereignty for her native country.
Have you been in touch with your relatives and friends in Ukraine? Do you or they fear for their safety?
Yes, I have been in touch with my relatives and friends over there. Considering that Kharkov is closer to the border than Kiev, I feel as though I should fear for their safety, but oddly I’m not. They are not fearful either; wary may be a better term, but at the moment it seems as though things are quieting down.
Do they generally support the protestors and members of parliament who have called for a new election, or the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych?
We support the parliament. Most of my family was born into and has lived under the Communist regime. I don't think anyone wants to experience anything like that again. We are Ukrainian, not Russian, and we want to be our own sovereign nation.
What is your view of the events that have transpired since November, when Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union?
Honestly? To those of us who have been monitoring the situation for a while now, it was not surprising. There is a lot of speculation as to how Yanukovych won the majority vote over Yulia Tymoshenko, who seemed like a favorite of the people during the time of the presidential elections. It’s nothing short of obvious that Yanukovych was never on the peoples’ side to begin with.
Were the anti-government protests necessary for the citizens to be heard?
I do think this protest was necessary. The people could not let him gain any more power. At some point, the citizens need to stop being afraid of their government and take back control.
What are your hopes for a resolution and for the future of your country?
My hopes are, of course, that this can be resolved diplomatically. We – the worlds’ citizens – have fought enough wars as it is. I hope that Ukraine can gain sovereignty and stability, and recognition as its own nation.
What do you think the role of the United States and other members of the international community should be in negotiating a peaceful resolution?
Here things get sticky. I was never a fan of U.S. foreign policy, but the United States is an incredibly power and influential nation. The problem is, so is Russia. And we've seen what happens when two stubborn nations bump heads. No one wants to give way. That is not to say that the U.S. should sit back and do nothing. It is a member of the global community and that community is far more dominating than Russia itself. So it would help a lot if each member of this community lends a helping hand in resolving this conflict peacefully.