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    Posted March 30, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

    MaiaKiev and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Ukraine crisis as it unfolds
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    In one moment our lives were taken away!


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     MaiaKiev profiled two families who moved from Crimea to Kiev after Russia annexed the region. You can also read about the family of five who wanted to protect their kids from harm.

    MaiaKiev has been participating in protests in Ukraine ever since former President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign a trade deal with the European Union and instead turned toward Russia. She is a freelance photographer and Christian ministry worker in Kiev.

    - rachel8, CNN iReport producer

    Pyshtoi, Mykhail (68) and his wife, Ludmila (60) have lived for 43 years of their lives in Novo Ozernoye, a military town in Crimea. Now they are among refugees who have relocated temporarily to Kiev.

    They shared that it was heart breaking for them day after day to watch out of their windows how our military bases were stormed by Russian troops, how cynically when attacking our military headquaters Russian soldiers put a row of women in front of them to make sure Ukrainians don’t try to defend themselves by shooting. “It was scary to observe how one of our ships “Olshansky” was attacked by Russians for days. We heard shooting and we saw lots of smoke. We were concerned that our ship was set on fire and our boys were being burned alive. It just hurt to see!”

    After referendum it became impossible to continue living in Novo Ozernoye. “I can’t even go shopping,” said Ludmila. “I hear threats and contemptuous remarks from my neighbors. We used to be friends, we’ve been living next door to each other for many years! We used to be friends. Now they consider us traitors, though they are the ones who betrayed Ukraine!”

    Mykhail was outspoken about his support of Maidan during the Revolution in Kiev, he even went for a five weeks to participate in protests. He tried to share about his experiences on Maidan with neighbors but they wouldn’t believe him. They believed Russian TV channels that kept showing extremists in Kiev. Then Ludmila and Mikhail were openly against referendum, trying to talk their neighbors out of voting. Now those people don’t forget Mykhail’s position and consider him enemy. Mykhail and Ludmila have received personal threats on numeral occasions. Drunk Russian Kozaks have openly warned them to leave before they are kicked out by force.

    “We’ve been working all our lives, we have our home in Crimea. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to have to abandon everything, to become refugees at our age! I feel hopeless and it hurts. In one moment our lives were taken away, we became nobody and nothing!” says Mikhail.

    They want to return to Crimea, if only they are allowed to continue to be Ukrainian citizens. They refuse to betray Ukraine. “I will definitely not accept Russian passport!” I am sure we will get Crimea back. I decided not to shave until we free Crimea from Russian occupation!
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