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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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Asheville residents at odds over U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine

Asheville resident Bob Brown stands on the corner of Pack Square every Thursday from 4-5 p.m. with a sign reading “No US $ for Ukraine.”

“It’s a losing battle in the first place. I think we were looking for it. I think we’re active participants in the Maidan crew and provoked Russia with our collaborators in Ukraine into invading,” Brown said.

In addition to collaborating with the U.S., Brown said neo-fascism is a problem in the Ukrainian government.

“The fascists are the only people depraved enough to work with the U.S. in a situation like this. It was overthrowing their own country basically,” Brown said.

Like Brown, Andrea Kulish Wilhelm, Asheville resident and graphic design professional, works to raise awareness for conflict in Eastern Europe.

“I think it’s really important to contact your representatives and urge them to help Ukraine. I feel like history is watching us. This kind of feels like World War III,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said she is a first generation Ukrainian-American and sells hand-crafted Pysanky eggs to raise funds for Ukraine from her studio in the River Arts District. She said Pysanky egg making is a Ukrainian art form in which symbols of good wishes are inscribed on eggshells using wax and dye.

“I was always helping my dad and my mom. My mom taught me to make these Ukrainian eggs when I was little, now I make them. I teach a lot, I teach hundreds of people a year,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm is a member of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America and founder of local organization, AVL for Ukraine. She said the UNWLA, which formed over 97 years ago, currently focuses on raising money for protective gear, uniforms and boots for female soldiers.

“They know what Ukraine needs. They know how to get it there. They account for every penny raised,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said she began raising funds in her art studio after the invasion of 2022 and started AVL for Ukraine so more people could be involved. The organization held peace rallies for the one and two year anniversaries of the invasion in downtown Asheville.

“I hope next time we meet it’s not a peace rally and it’s a victory party,” Wilhelm said.

Yafet Habtemariam, junior at UNCA studying history, shared his view on U.S. assistance to Ukraine.

“I don’t think we should let Ukraine just be subjugated. On the other hand, why do we spend so much money on the military and focusing on other people? Not even just Ukraine, but in general,” Habtemariam said.

Habtemariam said he comes from a family of Eritrean refugees and currently has cousins facing problems trying to enter the U.S. He said he is unhappy with double standards regarding refugees.

“Many Europeans were happy to take in Ukrainian refugees from a war of aggression, but they weren’t happy to take, for example, Afghani refugees, Vietnamese refugees, Syrian, Iraqi refugees,” Habtemariam said.

Habtemariam said he recently attended protests for Palestine and Eritrea. He said awareness of global injustices is important.

“There are a lot of historians that have written extensively about this topic. You can really educate yourself. You should have no reason not to educate yourself,” Habtemariam said.

According to figures from the U.S. Treasury Department, in fiscal year 2024 the Department of Defense had $1.62 trillion distributed among its 6 subcomponents.

“We have actual problems in this country that people really need to be fixed, or they really need assistance from the government, but the government has turned their backs,” Habtemariam said.

Habtemariam said regardless of political affiliation, people should be critical of how their government handles injustices.

“We have homeless people, we have an insane gun violence problem, we have a drug epidemic, we have all these things, but you want to give money to other people,” Habtemariam said.

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