MINERAL WELLS - The people of Ukraine just want peace so they can go about their lives, a young man from a missionary family who spent 14 years in the country told the Wood County Farm Bureau Monday evening.
Aaron Ferrari, 18, spoke at the Wood County Farm Bureau's annual Town and Country Dinner Monday evening at the 4-H grounds in Mineral Wells. Also, candidates running in national, state and local races were able to address those in attendance on why the voters should support their campaign in the coming elections.
Ukraine has been the focus of many news reports recently as Russia has been slowly taking over the country with troops and pro-Russia supporters.
Aaron Ferrari spent 14 years in Ukraine, he told the Wood County Farm Bureau Monday evening. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
Ferrari had lived in the country since he was 3 months old as the son of Baptist missionaries who were over there to help establish and maintain churches.
''I really grew up in the culture, eating the foods, speaking the language and those experiences have really made Ukraine close to my heart,'' he said. ''With all of the news coverage, it is still hard to get a picture of what Ukraine is and what the people are going through everyday.''
Many people refer to the area as "The Ukraine," which was its designation when it was still a part of the former Soviet Union.
Ukraine is often overlooked in the European landscape, but it is the largest country in land mass in Europe with a population of 46 million people, Ferrari said.
The government has a legislative body, its parliament, and a president.
''The main difference is its lack of checks and balances,'' Ferrari said.
The U.S. created an ingenious system of checks and balances with its government.
''There is a lack of that in Ukraine, which has led to widespread corruption and cheating,'' Ferrari said.
A number of leaders in the country have been convicted felons, including former president Viktor Yanukovych, he noted.
Political leaders can affect the outcome of elections to ensure candidates they support are put into office, including busing people around to vote at voting stations several times in a single election, he said.
''It is not as secure of a system as it is in America,'' Ferrari said.
He said it would cost $1 million to buy a seat in parliament to vote a particular way or another.
''All of this corruption has left the economy in shreds,'' Ferrari said. ''It has made it hard for the average person to make a living.''
An average person has an annual salary of around $5,000 a year, but paydays are sporadic and people keep working to hold on to their pensions, he said.
''Many people are thankful to just have a job,'' Ferrari said.
Many Ukrainians look at the United States as a sort of paradise, because there is so much opportunity.
Industry in Ukraine is geared for large-scale production, including tanks, tractors, combines and airplanes. Plants are not owned by individuals but large conglomerates.
Many people have gardens and grow their own vegetables.
Ukraine has one-third of the Earth's black soil, which makes it easy for the people to grow everyday items, he said.
''It used to be the breadbasket of the Soviet Union,'' Ferrari said. ''That is one of the reasons Russia wants it back under its control is because it has amazing potential to grow things.''
The major crops include barley, corn, sunflowers and wheat. Sunflower oil is a major product produced there and sunflower seeds are considered a national snack by many.
''Russia wants Ukraine to be able to tap into this agricultural power,'' Ferrari said.
As Russia looks to go into an area, it uses the excuse of protecting the interests of Russian descendants there, he said.
Although some Ukrainians might lean toward a pro-Russia stance or a pro-Ukraine stance, many people just want peace, he said.
''They may have sympathies one way or another, but they just want to go back to a normal daily life,'' Ferrari said. ''Many are very scared of the future.''