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US midterms also a vote on support for Ukraine

food, us midterms also a vote on support for ukraine

US midterms are also a vote on support for Ukraine

The aroma of freshly baked bread, nut strudel and cinnamon buns wafts through the air. There’s also a faint whiff of cheese. “That’s the smell of home,” 76-year-old Ludmilla tells DW. She has been coming to Rudy’s Strudel & Bakery for almost 30 years to get her fix of Eastern European treats. Half of Parma’s 80,000 residents have Ukrainian roots. The town in northern Ohio is home to the largest Ukrainian immigrant community in North America.

At the back of the shop, huge pots with dumplings simmer on a gas stove. Yeast pastries ferment in tall metal containers. Women wearing babushkas — traditional, colorful headscarves — stand by long tables making pierogis, or Ukrainian dumplings. Lidia Trempe, whose mother fled Ukraine and took over this shop in 1974, now runs the business. She tells DW about the history of these foods.

Hunger and fear are back

“Traditionally, pierogis are without meat, which was important for Ukrainians, as Russian have always kept food artificially scarce for us,” says Lidia, a political scientist. She says things were better in her parent’s home country. But then, war broke out and now hunger and fear are back.

“When we heard about the war, the night the attack first happened, we were up all night, because I have cousins in Ukraine,” says Lidia. “So what we did is that following Saturday, we donated the money from all pierogis we sold to Ukraine, which raised about 10,000 dollars that very day.”

War brings Eastern Europeans together

The war has brought Parma’s Eastern European community closer together, says Lidia. Adding that Poles and Ukrainians have not always gotten along. But now, with war raging, Ukraine’s neighbors are getting anxious, too.

“This war isn’t just miles and miles away, it’s right here, it’s on our front doorstep, it’s on our telephones, it’s in our emails, it is happening to us, and it’s the same exact thing that happened to our parents,” says Lidia.

Of course, there is gratitude for everything the US has done to support Ukraine. Lidia hopes it will continue assisting the country. So far, the US has provided the most military and financial support for Ukraine. The White House has promised to keep up its support for as long as necessary. But ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, this issue has become politicized. More and more politicians say there needs to be a limit to how much support can be provided, given that Americans are facing inflation and rising costs at home. Lidia prefers not to comment on these claims, since she doesn’t want to alienate any of her customers.

Trump voter turned Democrat

Michael Dobronos, in contrast, does not mind speaking his mind. The lawyer, whose parents were born in Ukraine, has voted Republican all his life. Many Americans of Eastern European descent tend to vote for the conservative party, rejecting left-leaning politics owing to their experience with communism. But that could change in this year’s midterms.

“I voted for Trump twice, but I cannot believe the Republican party has abandoned Ukraine and its fight for freedom,” he says. “I’ve always voted for conservative candidates. However, I will break that tradition in this midterm. I cannot support JD Vance because of his anti-Ukrainian views.”

Republican candidate JD Vance is running for the US Senate and has made clear he does not support Ukraine, saying that “it is not America First to ignore the problems of your own country and to focus instead on Ukraine — enough with the warmongering, enough with the escalation, let’s focus on our own citizens, our own problems and ignore the candidates who want us to fight a war with Vladimir Putin because it makes them feel tough.”

Election outcome could have major consequences

Kevin McCarthy, Republican leader in the US House of Representatives, recently signaled his party would reduce US support for Ukraine should his party win back the House majority on November 8.

Surveys show that JD Vance and his Democratic rival Tim Ryan are neck-to-neck in Ohio. It is possible the state’s eastern European community will sway the election in Ryan’s favor.

Democrats are expected to lose votes

It looks likely the Democrats will suffer significant losses across the country. It is also possible that the Republicans will cut back Ukraine aid as of next year should they win a majority in the House. In light of growing inflation, many Americans are questioning the money spent on Ukraine and demanding more help for their own country.

But to Lidia Tempe, that would be a catastrophe: “Our children are watching what we are setting up for the next generation. It’s about them. It’s about these children that don’t have a home.”

This article was translated from German.

Author: Ines Pohl

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