Carol Novosel was hesitant to talk.
As the drums of war in Ukraine beat louder prior to Russia’s invasion, she didn’t really want to talk politics.
But, the louder the drums beat, the more she saw the history and culture of Ukraine crumbling under the weight of international politics, and she opened up about her ancestry and her thoughts on recent developments.
The Brookfield woman, who has visited Ukraine and neighboring countries several times, thought about the people she met, some of whom she is related to. She thought about the tiny villages that have been the home for generations of Ukrainians. And, she thought about the beating Ukraine has taken over the centuries as the wars of Europe shifted boundaries for people with little or no interest in what was going on outside their village.
“I lose sleep at night thinking that there might be combat in those areas,” she said Feb. 21, three days before the Russian invasion. “The village of Kulchytsi was war torn in World War II. There were four churches. They rebuilt one church and I attended services there.”
Novosel’s maternal grandparents came from Kulchytsi.
Novosel considers herself “the token Ukrainian” in the Shenango Valley, and she said she doesn’t mind being the face of Ukraine for people with little or no knowledge of the country.
She is a pysanky artist, decorating eggs in the Ukrainian tradition. She appears at local craft shows with her eggs, and is the featured artist at St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Sharon, where she holds an egg festival during Lent. She has operated dance troupes, including Ansambl Karavan, which highlighted eastern European traditions. And, she has run the dining hall at All Saints Camp, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Camp in Emlenton, on the Allegheny River.
The former co-owner of Billy’s Black and Gold Bar in Sharon said she has been humbled by the people who have reached out to her as the war approached.
“I want to see a free Ukraine,” she said.
Novosel said both sides of her family came from Ukraine.
“I’m fortunate because I have the best of both worlds,” she said. “I’m American born and raised, Ukraine in heritage. My grandparents were naturalized, but they came as young adults. They were Ukrainian. My parents really had to Americanize, to learn the language, get the job, fit into the American lifestyle, fight for the country. Me being third generation, I’ve got the best of both worlds.”
Novosel’s husband, Billy, a Tamburitza musician, is descended from Ukrainians and Croatians.
Carol Novosel said she had hope for the anti-corruption stance of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, but has long distrusted Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
“I’ve expected things to hit the fan for a long time,” she said. “The Ukrainian people have resolve. They’re in a tragic situation but they deserve what we have.”
Novosel said she fears that war in Ukraine could spread elsewhere in Europe.
“I’m afraid because this could open the doors to a much bigger conflict,” she said. “When you have somebody willing to destroy lives and take as many lives as it needs …”
War in Ukraine will be “messy and horrible,” she said.
“The rest of Europe may need to defend against him, and that would be equally horrible.”
This year’s egg festival will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. April 10. The church is at 389 Clark St.