The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 11, 2014

Couple eyewitnesses to unrest in Ukraine

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Staff Writer

— A trip to the Ukraine designed to build a family also made Laurie and Mike Trinko witnesses to history.

The Conneaut-area couple, who arrived in the Ukraine nearly two months ago to adopt two children, are planning to depart soon. During their lengthy stay they have seen first-hand the tension and turmoil that has captured the world’s attention. A brief phone conversation with Mike Trinko on Monday, combined with email messages, helped provide an insider’s view of the situation.

“If the Russians decide to try and take over the whole nation, the Ukrainians are willing to fight so it will get ugly,” the couple wrote in an email message to the Star Beacon. “We hope it will not come to that.”

The couple arrived in Kiev on Jan. 18 to complete the adoption of two young brothers, a process they were told would take at least two months to complete. The following day, they walked to a nearby square where a protest against Russia’s growing interest in the country was taking shape. On Jan. 22, the protest became violent, resulting in the death of three people.

“We were living in a flat about 200 yards from the square and could see the smoke and hear the protesters fairly well,” they wrote. “So we didn’t see a lot of violence but were worried for our safety until we left.”

Trinko, an intervention specialist at Conneaut High School, elaborated in a phone conversation.

“There was fire, smoke and police pushing people all over the place,” he said. “We just stayed away (from the action) and kept walking.”

The couple benefited from the watchful eye of their translator/facilitator, who worked hard to keep them out of harm’s way, Trinko said. “He was watching out for us,” he said.

After a few days in Kiev, the Trinkos traveled about 300 miles to the town of Turchin, where their adoption process is centered.

“It is a small, poor town and we have felt safe here,” they wrote.

The couple have made great strides toward the adoption. “We now are proud to say that we are in the final stages of adopting two brothers — Jack, age 7, and Max, age 5,” the couple wrote.

The next challenge comes soon, when the family returns to Kiev in a couple of days. They’re worried about the unrest they may find in the big city.

“We’re feeling a little nervous,” Trinko said in a phone conversation. “We’re leaving Wednesday to go back there.”

“The last couple days, with the Russians planning an invasion, we were worried because we planned to go back to Kiev and didn’t know what would happen there with any of the protesters,” they wrote. “They are expected to remain in the square until the new elections set for May. We will have to spend about three to five days in Kiev and hope the protest doesn’t turn violent again.”

The vast majority of people the Trinkos have encountered resist Russia’s influence, they said.

“They did a poll and almost 90 percent of the Ukraine people want to stay a separate country,” they wrote. “They want to be a part of the European organization and have a more European type of life.”

People are passionate on the issue — so much they are willing to take up arms if necessary,  the Trinkos said.

“The people were ready to fight for their rights, freedoms and justices that were denied by the former president,” they said. “Our facilitator is ready to join the military after we leave the country to fight for his rights, like many other Ukrainians.”

News reports have made many of the Trinkos’ friends and family a little anxious over the past few weeks. To allay their fears, the couple post regular messages on a blog. They also talk frequently on the phone — when possible.

Face-to-face chats should be happening very soon. “We’re hoping to be on a plane home on Sunday,” Trinko said.