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Ukrainian Roots, Concerns, Run Deep for Glendale Man

Sofron Nedilsky is among millions of Ukrainian natives watching unrest play out in that country. He wishes the focus was on its culture and customs.

Nedilsky  spent his early years in Ukraine, before his family came to the U.S.  He eventually settled in Glendale where he and his wife raised their family and he served for 25 years as Clerk of Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The family home is filled with Ukrainian art and crafts.

Just this past fall, the couple traveled to western Ukraine, and Nedilsky says he was amazed at how lively Kiev was and how prosperous it looked and "how many shops and restaurants and how many people were on the street. This did not exist, I guarantee you, 20 years before. It was a desert of brick and stone, primarily bureaucratic offices of the government, very little life to it," Nedilsky says.

A book of photos from last year's visit sits on the coffee table. Several are of places that were later filled with demonstrators.

He is upset by the level of corruption he has heard took place, under the watch of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by parliament and fled the country. There have been reports that he moved as much as $30 billion out of the country. "So much more could have been done and there can't be growth is the money is sitting in the coffers  in Austria and Switzerland and England," Nedilsky says.

As for what the family is hearing from relatives and friends living in Ukraine, Nedilsky says most information is "very guarded" and, because it is a dramatic time there, it's easier for them not to communicate until things settle down.

Nedilsky says a few relatives no longer live in Ukraine – and it’s not because of the current strife. They have moved to find work.

"Ukraine, as it declared its independence in 1991, had a population of almost 50 million. Now, it shows a population of just over 46 million. Probably 80 percent of that drop is related to people who have either emigrated or, many more are working abroad - a lot of women, especially...are working as maids and sending money home," according to Nedilsky.

The problem, he says, is that there are not enough jobs - particularly in western Ukraine plus, "an entire generation has grown up in independent Ukraine from 1991 to today, and those people have been to the west, have access through the internet to western things and they are seeking to have the opportunities they expect to have in life," Nedilsky adds.