NAPLES, Fla. — Members of the local Ukrainian community held a rally in Naples on Friday to speak out against the Russian invasion.
However, it wasn’t all Ukrainians who were at the rally. People from many backgrounds and several other Eastern European countries supported the Ukrainians.
The conflict in Ukraine has had a unique effect on Naples residents Marina Berkovich and Alex Goldstein. They are married, and Berkovich is from Ukraine and Goldstein is from Russia.
“The hatred of one group to the other is unbearable to me,” Berkovich said. “The bombing is also unbearable to me, and it’s very sad."
Marina Berkovich fled Ukraine as teenager when her home country was still part of the old Soviet Union. She even wrote a book about her experience.
Her husband, Alex Goldstein, who was unavailable to meet with us, is from Moscow.
The two have owned ABG World video production company in Naples for 17 years.
Berkovich said seeing the animosity between their home countries — even here in the U.S. — is heartbreaking.
“Ever since Putin took over Crimea, both countries have spent so much propaganda to antagonize these two countries against each other,” she said. “It’s very painful to watch.”
Berkovich and Goldstein helped form the Jewish Russian Cultural Alliance to bring together Southwest Florida residents from all Russian-speaking countries.
Maya Ismailova created the Russian Community of Naples Facebook group for the same purpose.
“One thing in common for us all, we want peace, no matter where,” Ismailova said. “We don’t want war.”
Berkovich says she wants peace for Russians here in America who might be discriminated against.
“The Russian food stores are being boycotted right now which is totally ridiculous,” Berkovich said. “These people came here, made a very decent living from their stores, put in hard work. What’s the purpose of it? Like a can of peas is going to save somebody?”
Berkovich said the Russians she knows in Southwest Florida are hard-working citizens who contribute to the community.
“I hope everybody continues to support them because they have absolutely nothing to do with Putin’s war on Ukraine.”