Winnipeggers with ties to Ukraine, and Ukrainians living here, are worried about a referendum that could decide the fate of their homeland. 

Nadiya  Fedoriv is an ethnic Ukrainian from Crimea and a temporary resident in Canada. She sees the referendum as a way to legitimize a Russian take-over.

"I don't agree with what is happening," she said at a lecture at the University of Manitoba on Ukraine. 
"This is something I would put as an audacious take-over, because this is illegal. And I am not ready to give away the land I associate as my home."

The U of M event featured a talk by Alexander Motyl, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in the U.S. whose own family roots are Ukrainian. He said people watching what is happening overseas are frightened. 

"When you talk to Ukrainians in North America, people are terrified of the prospect of war with Russia," he said. "They're afraid of an invasion by Russian troops of the Ukrainian territory. And in their worst fears, they even fear the possible disappearance of Ukraine and its conquest completely by Russia."

Motly said he didn't think such a scenario was possible, up until recently. 

Alexander Motyl

Alexander Motyl, a professor of political science at Rutgers University who spoke about the situation in Ukraine at the University of Manitoba, said Ukrainians in North America are terrified of the prospect of war with Russia. (CBC)

"Two weeks ago, I would have said it's impossible," he said. "As a matter of fact, I was telling my students it would never happen."

But events in Crimea have changed that. Now, he thinks it's quite possible.

"I don't think it's very likely a total occupation, because that would mean starting World War III. And at that point, Europe and United States would be very upset and would probably have to get involved. But I think a smaller scale invasion of some parts of south and eastern Ukraine is actually very likely."

Denys Volkov, who has been living in Canada for 10 years, comes from an area of Ukraine close to the border with Russia. He said he is shocked as he watches events unfold.

"It's devastating," he said. "Every day I check the news when I wake up to see if the country is at war and there is fighting going on. It's really hard."