Local woman evacuated from peace mission in Ukraine

Local woman evacuated from peace mission in Ukraine »Play Video

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A Yakima woman is back home Tuesday night after being forced out of Ukraine. She was there on a mission of peace, until she evacuated a week ago as the threat of war with Russia seemed to grow.

Margaret Howell is in the Peace Corps and has lived in Ukraine on two different occasions. She's back in the Yakima Valley after spending the last six months in the eastern part of the country - a region that's caught in the middle of the latest unrest.

Margaret Howell admires her gifts from people she met in Ukraine - a place she called home for the last six months as part of the Peace Corps, but left a few days ago when the stability of the country came into question. No chance to say goodbye.

"Peace Corps really wanted us to leave without making a big deal out of it because it could have potentially affected safety," Howell said.

Margaret remembers when safety wasn't a concern. Here she is in a public square with St. Michael's Cathedral in the background. Margaret says the same spot has seen increasing violence over the last month.

Days after being told she had to come home, she realized it was getting worse.

"There was a run on a lot of the banks, so, going home from work, I took a different route home because there had also been rumors of bombs on the metro," Howell told KIMA.

Margaret lived in Kharkiv, a six-hour train ride from Kiev. She was there to teach English to university students and was three weeks into the semester.

"Does it kind of feel unfinished since you had to leave early?" KIMA asked.
"It does. It really does feel unfinished," Howell answered.

This was Margaret's second stint in Ukraine. Over a total span of two and a half years, she learned to speak Russian and Ukrainian while being exposed to the tradition and culture. She's making her own traditional Ukranian towel.

"When the bride and groom are getting married, they stand on it," she said. 

One she'll put to use at her own wedding after being recently engaged.

Margaret wants to go back to Ukraine after things stabilize. It's not clear if she'll teach again, but she at least wants the chance to say goodbye.

Margaret says she is following the crisis closely on television, and she keeps in touch with her friends there regularly using social media.