One family encapsulates the Ukrainian dilemma

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One family encapsulates the Ukrainian dilemma

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As an illustration of the trauma nagging at Ukrainians who are divided between east and west Maksim Vasin and his wife and young son are perfect examples.

Originally from Donetsk in the east, the couple came to study in Kyiv and stayed on. Their family stayed behind, and along with Russian relatives were appalled when their children took part in the Maidan protests, not understanding why they would do such a thing. Now they are worrying about separatist movements in their home city. They are scared that for the next visit their family will need to use a foreign passport.

For the last three months the Maidan was their second home. They brought their little son to the Maidan protests because they wanted him “to grow up like a responsible person”.

“Our family asks: what was the reason to go to Maidan, why not just continue living quietly? We answered that we fought for our dignity, for freedom, for the right to be a human being in our own country,” says Maksim.

Ukrainian society does have divisions between east and west say sociologists, but they do not run as deep as some are insisting, and separatism is not a widespread sentiment.

Seventy-three percent of Eastern Ukrainians do not want any Crimean-style swift annexation to Russia. However experts do recognize that 38% of Ukrainians believe that there are cultural and political divides between the west and the east of Ukraine.

“If you take the country as a whole then separatist feelings were present in about 5% of the population, and this is now up to 10 %, but that’s still see far from a majority,” says the head of an independent and reliable polling agency the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, Iryna Bekeshkina.

The pro-Russian protesters barricaded in official buildings in the east certainly want to break away, but nowhere in the east have people mobilised in the numbers seen in Kyiv, even where the Russian flag has been raised. The IKDIF study says 18% of Donetsk residents would like to be Russian.