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Ukraine Conflict Divides Families, Friends



The year-long conflict in Ukraine has energized those who support a united, independent country. But it has also created divisions between them and neighbors, friends and family members who feel a connection to Russia. The political tensions have harmed personal relationships and have even led some married people to separate.

Lyudmila and Denis Sakhno married 17 years ago. At the time, like most people who marry, they expected to spend the rest of their lives together.

But conflict began between the two when Russian-supported rebels used a lack of leadership in Ukraine’s central government to seize control of their town.

Lyudmila is an ethnic Ukrainian. She says the seizure of the town hurt her emotionally. But her husband, who is half Russian, did not feel the same way.

She says he thought the seizure would turn Ukraine into “a new country with new possibilities.” But she believed it was an illegal occupation and harmful to her rights.

To try to ease tensions, Lyudmila and her husband agreed they would not talk about politics at home.

She read news about Ukraine on the Internet. Denis Sakhno received his information from Russian state television.

Denis Sakhno said he and his wife began to have arguments about the war in Ukraine every day. So they separated. They then asked officials for permission to end their marriage.

Yulia Parshina is head of the Kramatorsk Marriage Registration Office. She notes that, during the last year of fighting in Ukraine, many people became frightened and canceled plans to marry. Others split up because of political differences when some of the men joined the rebellion against Ukraine’s central government.

Ms. Parshina says many families were broken because some members supported a united Ukraine and others supported the rebel-controlled Donetsk Peoples’ Republic.

Lyudmila Sakhno says her husband’s beliefs about the rebels changed after he saw armed men supporting anti-Ukrainian beliefs and clashing with Ukrainian forces. She says he understood what was happening. In her words, “he saw the rebels were not building something new, but just destroying.”

She admits her own opinion of Ukraine’s central government has changed. She is no longer as excited as she once was.

Denis says he “understood in the wrong way.” He says “I have regrets, not only about our relations, but my main regret is that I was fooled.”

Lyudmila and Denis Sakhno have agreed to finalize their divorce in the middle of June. But, still, they are friendly with one another, and Denis hopes they can remain married.

They both see a better future, even as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues. This is a war of politics, they agree, not a war of Ukrainians against Russians.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Daniel Schearf reported this story from Kramatorsk, Ukraine. George Grow adapted it for VOA Learning English. Christopher Jones-Cruise was the editor.

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Words in This Story

energizev. to give energy or excitement to something

divorcen. the official end of a marriage; a complete separation between two things

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