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Why One Donetsk Resident Stayed Home On Referendum Day


Yuliya Kubanova was also among those who did not go to the polls in Donetsk. Like most people who live in eastern Ukraine, she is a Russian speaker, but the 28-year-old supported the uprising that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February. She says never took yesterday's vote for independence seriously, though the process has her rethinking her future in the region. Kubanova described the polling as unorganized and says even the ballots themselves looked like a joke.

YULIYA KUBANOVA: It was just yellow printed papers and no one controlled how people get these papers. So, you can vote many times. You shouldn't even show your passport. So, if people who organize who this referendum, they really want to know point of view of whole population, I guess they would take it much more seriously.

BLOCK: When you talk with your friends and your family, do they feel, much as you do, that you are Ukrainian and that this referendum is illegitimate?

KUBANOVA: You know, yes. I guess now. As for my family yesterday, we joked a lot about referendum but no one was came to the polling station because all of us was sure that there is nothing to do for us on this referendum. So, this referendum was made only the people who were shouting all the time that no one from Kiev want to listen to Donetsk people.

BLOCK: When you look at what happened in Crimea, which is effectively annexed by Russia at this point, do you worry about the same thing happening where you are in eastern Ukraine?

KUBANOVA: No, not really, because the number of people who really support Russia or separation from Ukraine, they were so small. It was so small.

BLOCK: On the other hand, those voices are loud. They've commanded a lot of attention. When you...

KUBANOVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's true. Actually, this is a big problem. It's the biggest problem now, that pro-Ukraine, they just cannot go out, for example, together on some square and to show how many pro-Ukrainians here are because it's just dangerous for us, for our life now, just to speak about unity of Ukraine.

BLOCK: I wonder, Yuliya, what you think about the government in Kiev and whether they are responsible in any way for alienating people who live where you do in the east.

KUBANOVA: You know, frankly speaking, now, I'm also disappointed in our government because I guess they just left us alone. So, now just once the prime minister came here. And that's why now we are feeling, at least pro-Ukrainians, we are feeling that we are really alone with our problems. So, it's our own tragedy. And I know that, for example, I need to move somewhere because it will be hard for me just to leave, you know, in this place just because I don't support and I don't accept all the changes.

BLOCK: I was wondering about that. Are you hearing from a number of friends, people you know, that the time has come to leave Donetsk, that you need to find a part of Ukraine where you'll feel more at home?

KUBANOVA: Yes, yes, because it is dangerous. Some people with machine guns can come to you and take away your car, for example, or maybe your money or maybe your phone. Because actually it's not - it is a joke or maybe not joke here that it is not Donetsk People's Republic. It's Donetsk Criminal's Republic.

BLOCK: Yuliya, when you look to the future, do you imagine a Ukraine that is split, that there is a part of the country in the west that will be allied with Europe and a part of Ukraine in the east that will be linked to Russia?

KUBANOVA: You know, it's hard for me even think about, you know, not to talk. So, but more and more I start thinking that it will be, really, it will be because, as for me, at least now, it is the only one solution how to stop murders, how to stop war actions. So, yes. Yes, now, I start thinking that we will be separated, divided into two different countries.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Yuliya Kubanova. She lives in Donetsk. Yuliya, thanks so much for talking with us.

KUBANOVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, thank you, for sure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.