Longtime Juneau resident and Peace Corps volunteer Mary Miller had several months to go on her two-year tour in Ukraine when the organization pulled out volunteers late last month.
Miller was teaching English to what she calls “technically elite students” at Odessa National Academy of Telecommunications.
With a population of about a million people, Odessa is the third largest city in Ukraine and a major shipping port on the Black Sea. It’s about 275 miles south of Kiev, the capital.
Miller said most of the people she met were fluent in Russian and Ukrainian, and many spoke English.
“They may have grown up speaking one language but they know the other, and for the most part I would say the vast majority of the population is bilingual,” she said.
As demonstrations in Kiev grew violent, the Peace Corps volunteers found themselves in a tenuous position.
“We’ve followed it, you know, every day for the last three months, everything that was happening, just as an observer,” she said. “I would have students that would ask me ‘what do think about what is going on up there’ and I would say it’s not important what I think, it’s what do you think. But I would say that I did believe it was a human right for people to be able to express their opinions in a peaceful manner without fear of persecution.”
On Feb. 22 , Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine were sent home. Miller doesn’t know if or when she will return.
Miller spoke to the Juneau World Affairs Council on Thursday night and to KTOO News earlier this week .
You can watch Miller’s talk to the Juneau World Affairs Council Friday at 8 p.m. on 360 North television.