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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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    We Need Peace! We Want to Go Home!


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     MaiaKiev profiled two families who moved from Crimea to Kiev after Russia annexed the region. You can also read about the couple who felt threatened in Crimea.

    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

    I met this family in one the retreat centers in suburbs of Kiev that is turned into housing for refugees. This family of five – grandmother Gulnara, father Osman, mother Elmaz and two kids, Elzara (7) and Timur (6) – fled Crimea because they wanted to make sure kids were taken out of harms way. The situation in Crimea has been tense for weeks, with Russian soldiers with firearms walking the streets of Sympheropol. The locals called those armed troops “green men” for they were wearing Russian military uniforms but no insignia.

    The family is Crimean tatars. They are all medics and have been working in the same hospital for years. Tatars didn’t support illegal referendum that took place on March 16th. They had great concerns about Russia taking over Crimea. At one time in history the majority of population on peninsula used to be Crimean tatars as this areas had been under Ottoman Empire until Crimean was in 1783 when Russia took over the peninsula. The demographics changed the most dramatically in 1944 when the entire population of the Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported in the "Sürgün" (Crimean Tatar for exile) to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet government as a form of collective punishment on the grounds that they had collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces. An estimated 46% of the deportees died from hunger and disease. On 26 June of the same year Armenian, Bulgarian and Greek population was also deported to Central Asia. By the end of summer 1944, the ethnic cleansing of Crimea was complete. In 1967, the Crimean Tatars were rehabilitated, but they were banned from legally returning to their homeland until the last days of the Soviet Union.

    Tatars never trusted big promises made by Russian politicians and Russian propaganda in the process of rallying people for the illegal referendum. Most of tatars boycotted referendum. This family while living in tatar community didn’t receive any threats personally, but they were very concerned about the uncertainty of situation. “We can’t trust Russia after what happened in the past”, said Osman. So for now they decided to leave Crimea. Two men from their family stayed home to protect their house from potential looters. They are forced now to take Russian citizenship, which they don’t want to do. There are lot of concerning reports from Crimea. Tatars (who are Muslim by the way) are outraged by how priests of Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate and priests of Catholic churches in Crimea are being persecuted and even kidnapped. These kind of things show true face of Russia and that inspires no trust.

    Gulnara says that during protests they supported what was happening in Kiev, though never came here themselves. Gulnara shared that she cried with the mothers who lost their sons during protests. “As a mother and grandmother I can’t imagine the kind of heartbreak those women had to live through.” Today was the first time Osman visited Maidan and was very moved by memorial service that took today on Maidan in memory of heroes who were killed by riot police.

    The family shares that they have been overwhelmed with all the help they have gotten since coming to Kiev. Kids are starting classes in new school tomorrow. It was very easy to enroll them into school. All their needs are being met and they had absolutely no complications in the process of relocation. To my question if there is anything they needed Gulnara said, “We need peace! We want to go home!”

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