Ukraine crisis: Families torn apart by divided loyalties with parents and children facing different ways

Donestsk

Victor Sipiev hasn’t seen his parents for more than a month. The 25-year-old computer programmer used to be a regular visitor to his family home, just 12 miles outside the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk. But his support for a unified Ukraine has left him increasingly estranged from his family’s pro-Russian separatist views.

“There is a misunderstanding between the generations”, he says.  “There are moments when I just don’t get them.”

A United Nations official warned on Sunday that Ukraine was coming close to “the point of no return”. Ivan Simonovic, the UN assistant secretary general for human rights, told the BBC that the crisis reminded him of the conflict in the 1990s in his native Croatia.

In recent weeks more than 50 people have been killed in the violence between pro-Ukrainian government forces and separatists militias.

The divisions in eastern Ukraine extend beyond militia groups, as members of individual families, friendship groups and even relationships find themselves wrenched apart by differing views of the political situation.

“It was a war between us”, says Katya, 26, who supports a unified Ukraine but lives with her pro-Russian parents in Donetsk. 

Two months ago she split up with her boyfriend of eight years after they found themselves disagreeing over the toppling of the Kremlin-backed President, Victor Yanukovych. “If two people look in different directions…” she said with a shrug. 

 

Others describe married couples who no longer speak to each other and bitter arguments within individual households.

One young activist described a pair of brothers within her extended family so divided that while one was plotting a move to Moscow or Crimea so as to be living on Russian soil, the other was among the crowds calling for Yanukovych’s removal at the Maidan protests in Kiev. Lena Glazunova’s family history is representative of the complex web of loyalties and ethnicities in this region. Her mother is a Russian born in Volgograd, the city formerly known as Stalingrad. Her father was born in Ukraine to a Ukrainian father and a Russian mother. Ivan Simonovic, the UN assistant secretary general for human rights, told the BBC that the crisis reminded him of the conflict in the 1990s in his native Croatia Ivan Simonovic, the UN assistant secretary general for human rights, told the BBC that the crisis reminded him of the conflict in the 1990s in his native Croatia

Glazunova’s support for a unified Ukraine has pitted her against her parents and one of her three sisters.  She is enraged by her parents’ desire to be reunited with Russia. “I am pro-Ukrainian, I love Ukraine,” she said.

Her father, Alexandr, thinks she is mistaken. “We are all Russians. I am Russian in my heart. I have relatives in Russia,” he said. “But you gave birth to me in Ukraine,” was her retort. 

Alexandr blames his daughter’s views on the Ukrainian education system.  “Take away the history from a nation and after one generation you could can do with this nation whatever you want”, he said, before launching into a lengthy explanation of the region’s historic ties to Russia.

His daughter argues that the older generation is nostalgic for the stability of life they enjoyed when Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union. “When they got this freedom they really didn’t know what to do with it”, she says, speaking of Ukraine’s independence in 1991. “They have a slave mentality. They want to be under authority.”

Despite her well-established life in Donetsk – a family, a circle of friends and her own business, Lena is prepared to leave if the region comes under Moscow’s control. “If it happens that Russia will come, I will get my stuff and leave.”

Last week, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence from Kiev after self-rule vote condemned by the Ukrainian government and many Western nations.

The mood in the city of Donetsk has calmed over the past week despite continued violence in the surrounding region.  Victor has also softened his stance since the referendum.  This week he has started to talk to his parents again. “Parents are parents,” he explains, and besides, “it was my father’s birthday”.

Read more: Ukraine crisis in space
Ukraine's richest man steps in
Kidnappings abound as Donbass falls further into anarchy
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links