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2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Photo: Wikipedia map of Russian Invasion)

The Russian-Ukrainian War Effect on Eastern European Immigrants to California

Ukrainian, Russian immigrants in California have been directly affected by the war despite being thousands of miles away

By Evan Symon, February 24, 2022 4:40 pm

On Thursday, Russia invaded Ukraine after building up troops and making inroads into a few breakaway republics after a few months, following 14 years of worry that Ukraine may join NATO.

While the war there is early and the situation is still playing out, including to what extent Western nations supporting Ukraine will do, and to what extent gaining control of natural resources in Ukraine played in Russia’s ultimate decision to invade, it’s effects have already been felt in the U.S.

Prices of many things are going up in response to the war, including oil, and setting new gas price records in California. The stock market has gone down in the last few weeks as a result of the building threats and ultimate invasion, and some businesses recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns may face a new financial hurdle as a result.

But at the human level, the Russian invasion is also being felt in the Ukrainian and Russian communities and through Californians with Russian and Eastern European ethnicity. Valentina Kovalenko, who moved to Los Angeles in 1993 following the breakup of the Soviet Union, was just one of many Ukrainians or Ukrainian-Americans who responded to the war on Thursday.

“I was in the equivalent of high school during the final days of the Soviet Union and the beginning of a new independent Ukraine,” explained Kovalenko. “It was very different what we learned in the two. In the Soviet class, it was all about how the Russians were the real masterminds. We had one lesson on what everyone else did, but the rest was how Hitler built up everything, invaded, broke an agreement with the Soviets, and continued invading. Each lesson was on a different battle against the Germans. Kursk, Stalingrad. Three on Leningrad. Barely anything on the UK or France or the U.S. Little on Japan except for the atomic bombs. Nothing on what Ukrainians did except a spotlight on how some collaborated with the Germans.”

“Then the same class when we became independent. Suddenly we began to see the war in other places. Until 1992, I didn’t even know Canada was in the war, or that Harry Truman was the President at the end of the war. It was still area centric, like any place covers the war, but we had lessons on the famine that the Soviets intentionally put on us just before the war, how Ukrainians defended their cities without Soviet help, and even lessons on Soviet war atrocities. In many cases, they were as bad as what the Germans or Japanese did too.

“I say all this because what Putin is doing reminds me so much of those lessons we had on Hitler. In the U.S. you learn appeasement and things like that in school, and that’s great, but we really went into what it meant for the Soviets step by step. And we’ve been seeing those steps for the last month.”

“It’s greatly affecting Ukrainians in Los Angeles. Many of us emigrated from Ukraine in the past 30 years, so many of us still have family and friends there. I’m worried about my mother in Kyiv, and a lot of us have been desperately trying to contact them. One I know managed to get his cousins out in time and flew in here last month and are trying to stay here permanently.”

The effects of the war on Californians of Russian, Ukrainian descent

Due to California’s unique status as an entertainment hub of the U.S., Californians of Ukrainian descent in the movie industry are utilizing unique contacts for aid.

“We do movies in Romania and other Eastern European countries all the time, since it’s cheap to shoot there and local extras are willing to do a lot for shoots,” said Eliza Maxwell, a Hollywood casting agent of partial Ukrainian descent who specializes in Eastern European productions, in a Globe interview. “Ukrainian stuntmen are of particular note, because they are all ex-military and willing to do pretty much anything.”

“Anyway, due to a lot of movies being shot in Romania, we have contacts there and we’ve been getting some Ukrainian film workers there to work on productions we have going since COVID restrictions allowed shoots to return last year. We knew of these problems building up, and being sent out of country with everything they own and with immediate loved ones, you know, many took us up on that.”

“We aren’t heroes for doing this at all, especially because we did really need them, but it’s less Ukrainians in immediate danger we helped out with. I feel a little proud that, just by talking on the phone at some office in Hollywood, we were able to get some families out of a now warzone only months before the Russians came.”

Russian immigrants have also been feeling  the effects of the invasion in California.

“This is not my home countries finest hour,” said Oleg Volkov, a Russian who arrived in California in 1998, to the Globe. “Others I know here are also heartbroken by this. Putin, he is showing just how bad and ruthless he can be. When I called by sister in Yekaterinburg, she said she was ashamed of Russia for doing this and the sentiment is being felt by many Russians who did not want this.”

“Over here, I know some people who run a Russian goods importing company, and they are very worried that they will have to close down. It’s not only the stricter sanctions, which, honestly, are not doing much. It’s non-Russian American customers who will not want to buy from them anymore. I have not stepped foot in the country since 1998, became a citizen and I was still yelled at today as if the war was my fault too.”

“There’s many Russian Americans in California too. And it can be restaurants or businesses or even barbers. We’re going to see business go down as a result simply of ethnicity and ancestry. It’s already happening, as my friend with the importing company had several cancelled orders and several delayed shipments so far. And this is only the first day of the invasion. It will get worse from here.”

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8 thoughts on “The Russian-Ukrainian War Effect on Eastern European Immigrants to California

  1. Thank you for this very good article that puts a human ‘face’ on this attack on the Ukraine by Russia.
    Nancy Pelosi laughed while mentioning World War 3 in an interview recently, it does not feel like our politicians $ee the men, women and children that will pay the price for this-
    just how it will affect the ‘price at the pump’.
    As with every International military action over the past 150 years, be ready for the refugees that will be granted asylum.
    Will proof of vaccination be required for entry?
    Will they deny visa’s for the unvaxxed but shell shocked people fleeing from this war over oil?
    This is not compassionate!
    I do not like the way that this is presented to us like we are just supposed to move right into this next
    ‘new normal’ like it ain’t no thing.
    Screw That !
    I guess now that the devastating lies/laws re: our ‘public health’ are unravelling ,
    now that careers have be destroyed over a needle and a card,
    now that the country has been re-sorted and reset for the worst ( not the better)
    NOW… let us just forget and walk in lock step while international criminals turn the other cheek at the
    human cost of war ( rape, hunger, violence).
    Let’s not forget the Romanian children with serious violence issues starting at ages 2 and 3 years old.
    WTF? What year are we living in?
    New ways of war-lock up your bank accounts and prepare to be hacked.
    Fantastic !

  2. the Ukrainian invasion is to usher in the weaning of fossil fuels for europe and the world. biden administration and nato standby as the innocent suffer and die. its called russian collusion. investigate the executive branch and the dem spinsters immediately and prosecute.

  3. so our executive branch and very compliant media is hiding behind the guise ukraine is not a nato country? someone please explain Afghanistan nato forces.

  4. As Vice President, Joe Biden, who led the Obama administration Ukraine policy (that arrangement alone in and of itself is very questionable), claimed that ne never spoke to his son Hunter about his overseas business dealings, including his reported $83,000 monthly pay for being on the Burisma Energy’s Board. Hunter had no experience in energy generated from gas, nor did he have any knowledge of how to conduct business in the complex environment of Ukraine. Hunter Biden was being paid by Burisma Energy so they could have access to his vice-president father? Vice President Biden bragged in publicly recorded discussions, that he pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk into getting rid of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was investigating corruption in Burisma Energy, and was looking into the payoffs to Hunter Biden. Joe Biden threatened to withhold a $1 Billion U.S. loan guarantee to Ukraine during a December 2015 trip to Kiev, if the investigations into Burisma was not terminated. In a speech in 2018 to the Council on Foreign Relations, Joe Biden infamously bragged that “I looked at them (the Ukrainian President and Prime Minister) and said; I’m leaving in six hours, “If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money (the $1 billion loan guarantee)” Biden then said, “Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”, everyone laughed. Hunter Biden’s involvement with Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings was the subject of President Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine, which sparked the Democrats’ impeachment push. The Ukraine is a corrupt mess?

  5. It may surprise you, but here goes. Russia may actually be saving humanity from Klaus Schwab and WEF….
    Ukraine was a hub for Burisma (Biden, Pelosi, Kerry, Romney Clinton), and money-laundering, trafficking? The home of Crowdstrike and the DNC server (Clinton emails); Soros instrumental in Orange Revolution that overthrew govt in 2014, and has trained those that attacked the people in the first two territories Russia re-claimed. (Myanmar just arrested 11 Soros Open Society and $4mil sent to upend govt) He wants all independent territories part of the EU. DOD has many Bio-Labs in Ukraine, why?, strategically targeted. According to the UN 2014, Ukraine has not registered their borders since 1991, so technically still part of Russia? Many NATO countries get a majority of their energy, and are oil-dependent on Russia, including the US under Biden, to comply with ‘Green New Deal’ standards in their own countries…big mistake. Who will pay? Watch US gas and oil prices soar, so much for sanctions, it’s we who will pay. Russia’s cleaning house, but without provocation, may leave the majority of Ukraine to the people. Much is happening in the world, Buckle up! Watch this…
    ‘Joseph Gregory Hallett-The Hidden King Documentary 2020’ (you tube) London Bridge (codename) is falling down.

  6. CalSTERS (teachers pension) had exposure to 9 Russian local sovereign bonds, OFZs, with a market value of $32 million in Ukraine.

  7. Imo, Putin has made a terrible miscalculation in trying to capture the entire country. He could have just taken the eastern portion of Ukraine without much difficulty or resistance, since it was already occupied by Russians going back to the Lenin era and Russian troops had infiltrated that region during the recent Crimea annexation. Now, the Russian forces are looking very average against a virtually non-existent Ukrainian military and Putin is starting to become frustrated at the progress. He was obviously expecting a quick and relatively bloodless campaign. But it’s not turning out to be the case. NATO countries have become united and are sending more military hardware to Ukraine; Finland and Sweden are now probably more likely to join NATO. In addition, China seems to be giving only tepid support, taking a wait-and-see stance, since it does not want to damage it’s own economic ties to western countries. Since Putin pulled many troops from the Siberian border with China, he probably got some concession from Xi regarding maintaining the integrity of that disputed border in exchange for oil. Historically, Russian czarists like Putin have always been able to “shoot themselves in the foot.” We shall see how this episode turns out.

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