Ukrainian town near Russian border feels uneasy about possible invasion
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NEW YORK, UKRAINE — Welcome to New York.
No, not the land of skyscrapers, bustling boroughs and constant taxi horns, but the city in eastern Ukraine, about an hour and a half from the Russian border.
The city was named New York in the 1890s by German Mennonite settlers. The wife of one of the settlers had American roots.
Six decades later, the Soviets renamed it Novgorodskoye.
But after a successful push last summer, Ukrainians reclaimed the original name, allowing them to distance themselves from their Soviet past.
The idea was from Nadiya Gordiyuk.
Next to an ‘I love New York’ installation, she explains to me the importance of the campaign and the name change.
“The name New York is part of Ukraine’s European history,” she says. “We are returning to historical justice.”
But the clouds and historical symbols persist.
In a nearby park is a row of crumbling statues of Russian literary greats. There are decaying buildings from the Stalin era. A chemical factory once bore the name of the founder of the KGB.
And a few miles away is an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists who split from Ukraine in 2014. More than 13,000 people have been killed in clashes, more than the entire population of New York. , which hovers around 10,000.
What about Moscow? It allows the Kremlin to extend its sphere of influence, and to destabilize Ukraine.
And now, with a military buildup along the border, there’s a new threat New Yorkers must face: invasion.
“It’s awful,” says Kristina Shevenko. The 28-year-old teacher was also part of the modern push to reclaim New York’s name.
“[But] we can’t afford to be afraid,” she says defiantly.
The name has changed, but the concerns have not.
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