Ivanna Filipenko is scheduled to perform "Carmen" in Vallejo later this month, but the Ukrainian-born opera singer is not sure she can muster the strength, as her life has been consumed by the turmoil in her native country.
"All my heart is there now. I cannot work, I cannot eat, I cannot focus on anything right now," the Walnut Creek resident said. "I can't believe this is happening in the 21st century."
Filipenko is not alone. Bay Area Ukrainians have spent recent weeks glued to televisions, computers, smartphones and any electronic device delivering updates to the fluid situation in their homeland. Their emotions ranged from euphoria when Kiev protests led to the ouster of the President Viktor Yanukovych to despair when Russian troops moved into Crimea, in southern Ukraine.
Born in Lviv, a western Ukrainian city, Filipenko emigrated to the United States in 1995, a few years after celebrating her native country's independence from the Soviet Union.
"I hope this ends and Russia will withdraw their troops from Ukraine," said Filipenko, whose cousins participated in the bloodless Orange Revolution in 2004 over a contested Ukrainian presidential election. "God will remove them from our country."
As the Euromaidan protests began in November in an attempt to move the country closer to the European Union, Bay Area Ukrainians intensely followed the violent Kiev skirmishes. Sunnyvale cybersecurity analyst Mikola Bilogorskiy and his young Ukrainian friends felt powerless so far away and formed MaydanSF, a group supporting the Kiev protesters, and now protesting the Russian involvement.
"I started MaydanSF ... because in December I saw videos of students beaten on the central square in Kiev, and I got real angry," the 32-year-old said. "I decided to do something to fight this injustice. Furthermore, my father was involved in Maidan protests back in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and I spoke to him frequently and knew how bad the situation was and wanted to help."
The group protested Sunday in front of the Russian consulate in San Francisco and plan another protest this Sunday. They are raising money for the families of scores of dead protesters.
Konstantin Kisly, a 33-year-old biotech worker from Palo Alto, has a special reason to help the group: He was born in Crimea and has family there.
"It's pretty strange to see any type of soldier in such a peaceful and beautiful part of Ukraine," he said.
The Ukraine citizen, who speaks Russian, said he still has plans for his annual summer trip to see his parents and spend time on the Black Sea.
"My hope is resolved to visit a free Crimea," he said.
Ostap Korkuna's fiancee helped in the medical brigades during the violent Kiev protests and the 26-year-old Palo Alto software engineer felt obligated to join MaydanSF.
"It's been a very emotional period. We definitely care about our homeland and have our families and people we know still there," he said.
Meanwhile, Bay Area Russians have mixed emotions.
The Ukranian people are the ones who are losing out in all this, said ethnic Russian Leza Sabsovich, 59, a home care aide who lives in Concord and was born in Odessa.
"Yanukovych is a bandit who has robbed the Ukraine for the past three years. Putin is no better -- people don't like him, but they (ethnic Russians in Ukraine) view a strength in him and fear the interim Ukranian government," she said.
She also said she believes the United States has sent money to "help destabilize Ukraine and support the opposition. The opposition is the one who started this, who became violent on the Maidan and throwing Molotov cocktails at the police."
Irina Milinevskaya, 41, of Pleasanton, originally from Moscow, said she opposes Russia's "incursion" into Crimea.
"This is a sovereign country, so what's happening now is really unpleasant to watch," she said. "People, especially my parents' age, still remember the invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and they don't want to be associated with this act of aggression. Looking back at this in 20 years, I want my children to be able to say that they are proud to be Russian."
Yakov Kamen, who lives in Los Altos and was born in Dnipropetrovsk, in eastern Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union, has high hopes for the post-Yanukovych government.
"The opposition party never had a better opportunity to transform their country," said the 53-year-old owner of a software company. "They're trying to work as a team; they're listening to each other and can do great things, especially if the U.S. helps them. Ukraine can become a partner for the U.S., like Poland. All it needs is the Marshall Plan.
"Putin is tactically very sharp guy. He saw the opportunity to capture this area because Ukraine was unstable. This move will keep him in Russia's history books."
Maria Marche was born in Ternodil, Ukraine. Her grandparents were sent to Siberia decades ago by the Russians while fighting for freedom, the 58-year-old Castro Valley resident said.
"I think it's beautiful to die for freedom," Marche said. "Whatever our destiny is supposed to be we're ready to make it happen."
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.
Ukrainians -- 1,846 +/- 328
Russians -- 12,398 +/- 955
Ukrainians -- 2,413 +/- 573
Russians -- 10,777 +/- 859
Ukrainians -- 3,599 +/- 597
Russians -- 16,212 +/- 1,139
Ukrainians -- 1,834 +/- 458
Russians -- 10,317 +/- 891
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 estimates