About Ukraine and the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis | World Refugee Day 2020

Today we are highlighting our Ukrainian population here in Broome County. Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe and shares borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Russia, and Belarus. Ukraine became independent in 1991, which came after periods of occupation by Poland-Lithuania, Russia, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). After declaring and gaining independence, Ukraine helped to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), consisting of countries that were formerly under the U.S.S.R.

Despite being independent of Russia, its influences are still found in the country. While over 75 percent of the population is ethnic Ukrainian, 17 percent is Russian, making Russians the largest ethnic minority. The majority language is Ukrainian, which belongs to the Slavic language family. While there are many minority languages in Ukraine, there are parts of the country that still use Russian as the language of instruction in schools, or when conducting business. Culturally, Ukraine has been influenced by Russia as well. Evidence of western Europe and Russia is evident in music, publications, the arts, and other forms of media.

There are some lasting ramifications from the Soviet era as well. Rapid industrialization, farming, and pollution have combined to create serious effects on the environment. Ukraine is now home to some of the world’s most polluted areas from the period of occupation. Air quality has diminished due to coal-burning industries and inefficient vehicles. Rivers are polluted with pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural runoff and sewage. The most well-known environmental disaster is the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in northwestern Ukraine. The area around Chernobyl will be unsafe for thousands of years due to radiation.

The current crisis began in 2014, when protestors drove President Viktor Yanukovych out of power for being pro-Moscow. Taking advantage of the protests, Russia used the opportunity to annex Crimea, claiming their desire to protect Russian citizens and assets in the region. The move was condemned by Western nations. Conflict continues between Ukrainians and pro-Russian forces today, causing 1.5 million people to be internally displaced, and over 100,000 people to file for asylum in other countries.

This is a very brief overview of the history and conflicts, and we encourage you to learn more about the Ukrainian community and the refugee crisis. To learn more about Ukraine’s refugee crisis and what you can do to help, click here.

Photo by Eugene on Unsplash

Makuch, Andrij, et al. “Ukraine.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 5 Mar. 2020, www.britannica.com/place/Ukraine.

“Ukraine Refugee Crisis: Aid, Statistics and News: USA for UNHCR.” Ukraine Refugee Crisis: Aid, Statistics and News | USA for UNHCR, www.unrefugees.org/emergencies/ukraine/.

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