LANCASTER, S.C. — A Ukrainian woman who fled her home country in 2016 because of violence is watching closely the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine.


What You Need to Know

Anastassia Terentieva fled Ukraine to escape violence

The tense situation between Ukraine and Russia has been ongoing since 2014

There is the potential for a Russian invasion in Ukraine


Russia currently has 130,000 troops on the border of Ukraine, but Tuesday, Russia announced it was pulling back some of them. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Western countries to forbid Ukraine from joining NATO, a political and military alliance of 30 countries, including the U.S. 

NATO was initially created in 1949 with the goals of encouraging European political integration and deterring Soviet expansionism. Ukraine was once part of the Soviet Union. 

“Russia is concerned for a number of reasons that Ukraine is moving to shift its political, its economic and its cultural identity towards Europe. And in the end, Russia is concerned that if that happens, it weakens Russia’s global position and it threatens Putin’s system of government that he’s established over the last quarter century,” University of New Haven Associate Professor of National Security and Political Science Dr. Matthew Schmidt said.

Anastasiia Terentieva, who is originally from Ukraine, came to the U.S. seeking political asylum in 2016 because of violence.

The tension between Russia and Ukraine started in 2014. 

Schmidt said it began with the Revolution of Dignity. It took place in Ukraine when protesters revolted against the president at the time after he backed out of signing an economic agreement with the European Union because of his ties with Russia. 

“The Ukrainian public took it as a betrayal,” Schmidt said. “Since that point, Ukraine has been in some kind of violent confrontation with Russia.”

In 2014, Russia also invaded Ukraine and annexed Krimea from Ukraine. 

Terentieva said these situations made safety in her country worse. She worried about her family’s safety because her parents are Russian and supportive of Putin. At one point, she was also part of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

She’s not supportive of the Kremlin and his actions anymore, however, which she believes further divided Russians and Ukrainians. 

Her house was shot at and broken into when she lived in Ukraine.

“It’s awful to not feel safe in your house,” Terentieva said. 

Terentieva lived in Kharkiv, a northeastern city in Ukraine, where she said the most common language was Russian other than in government settings. 

Back there, she was a lawyer.

“When I say something in the court, I speak in Ukrainian,” Terentieva said.

Terentieva switched jobs when moving to the Carolinas. She now photographs weddings, mostly in North Carolina. 

“I like to feel the love and all the vibes of the wedding,” Terentieva said.

Terentieva feels grateful she, her husband and their daughter are in the U.S., but she can’t help but worry about the safety of those in Ukraine. 

“Of course they are afraid and we are afraid for them,” Terentieva said.

Terentieva said one of her friends had a bomb placed at her house recently. 

“I don’t want anything bad happening to my friends,” Terentieva said. 

She worries if there is an invasion, innocent lives will be taken. 

“They already killed, and who knows how many more will be killed,” Terentieva said.

She hopes for a diplomatic solution.

Schmidt said currently there is no basis to believe Putin is sincere in removing enough troops to prevent him from invading Ukraine on a moment’s notice.