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Political Split In Ukraine Divides Families


The political split in Ukraine is dividing families, too. One couple, married nearly half a century, has hardly stopped arguing since the demonstrations in Kiev began last November. NPR's Emily Harris visited them at their home in Kharkiv, close to Ukraine's border with Russia.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Up a creaky elevator and down a short hall, Raisa Bartozhuk and Ivan Moroz are warm and welcoming.

IVAN MOROZ: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: In their cozy kitchen, she pours tea to go with homemade cheese blintzes.


HARRIS: Raisa's parents grew up on land that's now in Poland, forced to move 500 miles east after World War II. They worked on a collective farm for a few years before finding their way back to western Ukraine. She grew up there. Her husband, Ivan, grew up in Belgorod, Russia, just an hour's drive from their home here in Kharkiv.

MOROZ: (Through translator) I'm Russian. She's a western Ukrainian girl. I'm from here. She's from there.

HARRIS: They met in college at the University of Lvov in western Ukraine, although Ivan got a nasty surprise when he first arrived there.

MOROZ: (Through translator) I thought that everywhere in the Soviet Union, you could study in Russian.

HARRIS: Not in the Journalism Department at the University of Lvov, it turned out. So, Ivan wound up studying law instead. He says it's his legal training that makes him so mad that protests forced Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from office three weeks ago.

MOROZ: (Through translator) They should have removed him, OK. But they should have done it legally.

HARRIS: Raisa, a French teacher, disagrees.

RAISA BARTOZHUK: (Through translator) They did it legally.

MOROZ: (Through translator) What kind of legal?

BARTOZHUK: (Through translator) Parliament passed a law.

MOROZ: (Through translator) What parliament? My God. Parliament had no right. He should have died, been impeached or left on his own accord. You have to do these things in a reasonable manner.

HARRIS: But Yanukovych was a thief, Raisa says.

BARTOZHUK: (Through translator) He stole from the people. His son is a billionaire, while the students who protested get only pennies if they get help with tuition at all.

HARRIS: Doesn't matter, says Ivan.

MOROZ: (Through translator) I've never known a president who wasn't a thief. I'm not sure the ones in power now aren't thieves.

HARRIS: The long-married couple disagrees about Russian President Vladimir Putin, too, and why he's sent troops into Crimea. Ivan says he Putin had to show he could protect Russians, especially after right-wing Ukrainian nationalist groups showed up in Kiev protests. Raisa says Putin is the fascist.

BARTOZHUK: (Foreign language spoken)

MOROZ: (Foreign language spoken)

BARTOZHUK: (Through translator) A real fascist, just like Hitler. He sent troops into the Czech Republic, into Austria, into Hungary. Then he started to annex territory, just like Putin.

HARRIS: What about the future of Crimea? Here, they come a little bit closer. She would rather Ukraine stay united, for sure, but suspects Russia will get Crimea one way or another. Would Ukraine still be Ukraine without it?

MOROZ: (Foreign language spoken)

BARTOZHUK: (Through translator) Well, we don't go there. We don't have anything there.

MOROZ: (Through translator) I wouldn't miss it. What's Crimea for me?

HARRIS: Raisa and Ivan agree firmly on one thing: both do not want a war. Russia will start one, though, Raisa worries. Ah, never, says Ivan. That's just stupid. Emily Harris, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.