Ukrainians in New Brunswick worry about conflict at home

Ukrainians in New Brunswick are keeping a close eye on their home country.

New Brunswickers with roots in Ukraine brace for the worst as they watch crisis unfold

Ukrainians in New Brunswick are keeping a close eye on the conflict in their home country.

What started as an uprising in the capital of Kyiv has escalated into an international crisis, and that's raising concerns about the safety of family and friends.

Lena Biryukova, a travel agent at Freedom Tours in Saint John, is originally from Kyiv. She moved to the New Brunswick city from Ukraine seven years ago, and is already planning for a crisis.

"My parents have multi-visas to visit Canada. So I could take them here, just in case it will be bad," she said.

"But you know, they're older people and they don't want that. They don't want to run out, they would like to stand up for the country."

Her parents live just three blocks from Independence Square, the site of ongoing protests, said Biryukova.

"Every person, I think, helped those who stayed in the demonstration," she said.

"Even my Mom, she cooked something at home and brought the produce for the people there just to help them out."

Families caught in middle of crisis

Biryukova says she wasn't worried about her parents' safety until Russian troops started showing up in her country. She now fears the two countries will go to war.

"We are all shocked and scared of war," Biryukova said. "Nobody wants a war between two friendly nations."

Julia Khalack moved to Moncton from Ukraine eight years ago.

Her family is still there, and she's been relying on Skype calls to stay on top of their situation.

"My parents are both retired, so like for them, they're just trying not to watch the news. But it's impossible," said Khalack.

Both Khalack and Biryukova hope the international community will step in and sanction Russia before the situation turns volatile.

The new Ukrainian government came to power last week following months of pro-democracy protests against a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his decision to turn Ukraine toward Russia instead of the European Union.

Yanukovych fled to Russia after more than 80 people died, most of them demonstrators killed by police. He insists he's still president.

Since then, tensions have risen sharply between the two capitals.