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Perkins grad now living in Ukraine

Tom Jackson • Feb 21, 2014 at 10:50 AM

As he monitors the bloody battles between police and protesters in Kiev in the Ukraine, Perkins Township native Brad Miller is assuring his family back home that he’s being careful to stay safe.

Miller explained that Maidan Square in Kiev, also known as Independence Square, the scene of bloody clashes in the last few days, is a short walk from where he lives and the office where he works.

He said his mother back in Perkins Township asked him when he’s coming home. He said he explained he’s watching the situation and being careful.

Miller, 37, a 1995 Perkins High School graduate, spoke to the Register on Thursday.

After he graduated from Perkins, Miller studied international relations at Miami University.    

He served in the Peace Corps in western Ukraine from 2001 to 2003, then returned to the Ukraine in 2006 to work for an organization called American Councils.

He explained that he works for a cultural exchange program, Future Leaders Exchange, or FLEX, a high school exchange program funded by the U.S. State Department that sends about 200 Ukrainian high school students to the U.S. every year to stay with American families and experience life as an American high school student.

Miller speaks Ukrainian, a Slavic language closely related to Russian. Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers usually can understand each other, he said.

Miller was always a good student at Perkins and acted in school plays, said Marian Hancy, a retired English and drama teacher at the school. He was respectful, participated in class discussions and performed well onstage, she said.

Although there has been unrest in the Ukraine for weeks, it intensified in the last few days. Dozens of people have been killed in the last few days, including both protesters and members of the local police force.

Miller said he watched people march on Parliament during his lunch break three days ago.

“I just ran over there quick to see what was happening. I didn’t get near it because I’m not a fighter,” he said. “You could hear booming. I’m assuming that was tear gas being fired”

When Miller saw riot police approaching, everyone left to avoid being caught up in what was happening.

Wednesday and Thursday, Miller went to Maidan Square.

“I was being very careful. That was essentially where there was less fighting,” he said.

“As much as it sounds like a cliche, it does look like what a war zone would look like. All of the cobblestones are dug up. A lot of the marble tile is torn out. They are breaking it up to throw and use as weapons,” he said.

Miller said he tries to keep his distance from the action and has avoided going out at night because of allegations that thugs hired by the government are roaming around beating people up.

While the clashes in the Ukraine have been reported as a clash between a pro-Russian government and pro-Western protesters, the uprising actually has a broad base of support that has joined widely-varying political elements.

“That’s one thing the Western media are getting wrong” he said.

Everyone out on the streets wants a more open government that will avoid using violence against its own citizens, Miller said.

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