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Residents Of Crimea Make Do While They're Without Power


We are reminded this morning how a global political conflict touches real lives. Early last year, Russia invaded and occupied part of Ukraine, the Crimean peninsula. And the anger over that has not gone away. Last month, Ukrainian nationalists blew up power lines that carry electricity into Crimea. This plunged the peninsula's 2 million residents into darkness. Many people still lack power today. Others are getting it only in sporadic bursts. Zhenva Novytska is a freelance translator in the city of Simferopol. And she says she and her son and neighbors have been making do.

ZHENVA NOVYTSKA: People started buying candles, lanterns, flashlights. People use diesel generators, these very noisy things. And thank God it's not that cold. What they're going to do in January and February, when it's windy, cold and snowy, I'm really concerned about this.

GREENE: Now, Zhenva said for days, electricity would come on for only a few hours at a time. And she said she felt like superwoman, doing everything - making dinner, vacuuming, doing work on her laptop as quickly as she possibly could. You know, I met Zhenva and worked with her when we did reporting in Crimea last year. And at the time, a lot of Crimeans expressed confidence that Russia would bring stability to the region. I asked her yesterday whether people are more doubtful now.

NOVYTSKA: There are people who were very optimistic. But now, they're very disappointed. A lot of people, they're very pro-Russian. Putin is very popular; he's, like, superhero. You know, they have a picture of Putin in their office. And of course, a lot of my friends, they are very pro-Ukrainian. But they are not expressing their opinion anymore because it's not safe.

GREENE: What do you tell your 8-year-old son about why this is happening when the power goes out?

NOVYTSKA: I'm just explain him like this. First, it was Soviet Union. Then things have changed, and it was Ukraine. And you were born when it was Ukraine. Now it's Russia. And things can change. And you never know. So you cannot say that you are Ukrainian or Russian. You are Crimean. And you cannot be against someone because your aunt is living in Ukraine. Your grandmother is living there. And you know a lot of people who are Ukrainians. Do you hate them? No, why should I? You know, it's just some big men are playing big games. And you can have your own opinion, but it doesn't mean that you are wrong or you are right. But you're Crimean. And that's how I explain it to him.

GREENE: Well, Zhenva, thank you again for talking to us. And I hope the winter's not too cold and you keep that power - that power stays on.

NOVYTSKA: Thank you.

GREENE: That's Zhenva Novytska. She's a freelance translator in the city of Simferopol, Crimea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.