GOSHEN — James Stickel recently looked at a few photos he had taken in Ukraine when he visited family members two years ago.
“It was so peaceful there,” Stickel said. “I see some of those sites now with fireballs and machine guns. I have family over there and personally keep in contact with my cousins via Facebook and instant messaging services.”
Stickel is a member of the local community of Ukraine immigrants and their decedents.
The violence in Ukraine began in November when President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a pending agreement for closer ties with the European Union, according to the Associated Press. That move sparked protests by pro-EU Ukrainians in the capital of Kiev and other cities.
Then Russia offered financial aid to Ukraine to replace the lost EU aid.
Protests continued and then those protests turned violent earlier this year when government snipers opened fire on the protesters in Kiev, resulting in 82 deaths and hundreds of people wounded.
In late February, Yanukovych was sacked by members of Parliament and his powers given to their speaker. Yanukovych fled to Russia and Parliament issued a warrant for his arrest for the killing of protesters.
Then pro-Russian protests broke out in eastern Ukraine and in the mostly ethnic-Russian Crimea, where Russian has a naval base. Over the weekend Russian forces invaded and surrounded a small garrison of Ukrainian infantry. In response, Ukraine mobilized its military and reserve forces, according to news services.
Stickel spoke to The News late last week before the invasion in the Crimea. He said Ukraine is “very divided” because the western half is ethnic Ukrainian, while the eastern half has a large ethnic Russian population.
“It depends on their ethnicity,” he said.
Stickel is a deacon at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Goshen and an optometrist.