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Marble Falls resident laments war in home country of Ukraine

Aleksey Ismaylov of Marble Falls in Austin

Aleksey Ismaylov of Marble Falls stands in front of the Austin skyline. Ismaylov and his family moved to Marble Falls in 2014. He came to the United States as a refugee from Ukraine in 2008. Courtesy photo

Marble Falls contractor and youth soccer coach Aleksey Ismaylov was 14 years old when he and his family were welcomed to the United States as Christian refugees from Ukraine. He was born in his home country four years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, which freed Ukraine from communist rule. 

“Our close relatives were harshly pressed by the Soviets because of their Christian beliefs,” Ismaylov said. “My uncle ended up in jail. Him and his relatives were invited to the U.S. as political refugees by a church community in Portland, Oregon.” 

An uncle and some cousins still remain in what is now a battleground as Ukraine fights against an attack on its independence by Russia. Russian troops began an invasion of the 30-year-old independent country on Feb. 24. 

Ismaylov has tried to contact his relatives in Ukraine but has not been able to reach them. 

“I feel badly, very badly,” he said. “We are going to sleep at night, and I’m checking the news all the time. I wish there was something I can do.” 

With a wife and three children ages 14, 12, and 10 years old, his desire to return to Ukraine and take up arms is unrealistic, he said.

“What I can do is help buy weapons,” he continued, rattling off the prices of an AR-15, a rocket launcher, hand grenades, and other military weapons. “The numbers I know. The more I can donate, the more chances they have of holding out as long as they can. The longer they can hold out, the more chances the Russian soldiers will leave or will understand what they are doing there.” 

Ukraine first became part of the Russian empire in 1793 under Catherine the Great. Ukrainians fought for independence during the revolution that formed the Soviet Union in 1922 but failed.

As part of the USSR, Ukrainian peasants protested when communist leader Joseph Stalin took away their land and gave it to the state. In 1932, Stalin crushed Ukrainian opposition by creating an artificial famine, the Holodomor. Between 1932 and 1933, about 4 million Ukrainians starved to death. 

In a second wave of terror, Stalin arrested and murdered Ukrainian intellectuals, artists, and dictionary writers. He eliminated a letter from the Ukrainian alphabet to make it more like Russia’s. 

Ukraine won independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved, but the struggle with Russia has not ended. In 2004, presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who was campaigning against a Putin-backed opponent, was poisoned. He survived and won in what has become known as the Orange Revolution. Three elections were held before one was finally allowed to stand. 

“If things in Russia would change, if there was humanity, an understanding of others’ needs, I believe we could find a compromise,” Ismaylov said. “I don’t have much hope. I don’t think any country will go in to help. Ukraine is on its own. I don’t think sanctions will work.” 

Americans should find out how to help refugees beyond sending money, he said. He suggested taking in families or adopting children from Ukraine. He also urged people to look at the country’s history. 

“I would question anything the Russian government promises,” he said. “Be on high alert. I believe if Hitler had been stopped in the first seven years of his campaign, the world would be much better off today.” 

For ways to help Ukrainians as the war continues, visit the webpages for UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee, or Amnesty International

suzanne@thepicayune.com

2 thoughts on “Marble Falls resident laments war in home country of Ukraine

  1. The author fails to mention The Reichskommissariat. The seige of Kiev starting in 1941. This is almost more than I can stand. I have called and written my Congressman and am talking to anyone that will listen. We are here. I told my Congressman but for the fact I’m 67 I would be rowing a boat across the Atlantic with well defined intent when I get there.

  2. A history of Eastern Europe: Ukraine-Russia Crisis. Prof. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Univ. of Tennessee. I love Marble Falls too brother. I am not from there but my sister and family have been residents of Granite Shoals for a long time with extended family in the area for generations.. Being an old boomer I don’t know how to send this article to them. ( I won’t use facebook) My father fought in the Pacific his brother in the Ardenne Forest at the Battle of the Bulge and yes if people could have known more and taken action so much could have been different. I know the price of war that is paid for generations. Thank you for this. Stay strong

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