The North Bend Eagle


Eason keeping close tabs on Ukrainian family

by Nathan Arneal
Published 3/9/22

Tamara Kolesnikova was born in the Soviet Union.

When she was young, one of her neighbors painted a fence with the colors yellow and blue, the traditional colors of her homeland.
The combination of those colors was not allowed. The KGB paid the man a visit and told him he had to paint his fence again by the next day. Or else.

Mike and Tamara Eason pose with their children Isabella and Victoria and their North Bend Eagle in front of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2017. Tamara, native of Ukraine, has many family members still living there as it faces the Russian invasion.

Tamara remembers with wonder her homeland declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. For the first time in her life, the colors yellow and blue joyously took to the streets in the form of homemade flags cobbled together with pieces of material or ribbon or whatever was on hand.

She left Ukraine in 1994, eventually finding a job with an oil and gas company in Oklahoma, where she met North Bend native Mike Eason, a 1990 graduate of NBC. They married and now live in San Antonio with their two children.

Tamara Eason joins the rest of the world watching with concern as a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, once again tries to exert Soviet-like control over Ukraine as the Russian invasion approaches its third week.

Her father has passed on and her mother now lives in Chicago, but Eason is in direct contact on a daily basis with cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces still living in Ukraine now surrounded by war.

Last week Eason spoke with the Eagle, sharing her thoughts on what is going on in her homeland and what her relatives are seeing in their hometowns.

She grew up near Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, some 80 miles from the border with Poland.

Eason figured out from an early age that Ukrainian culture was split into two pieces: the official Soviet version they were taught in school, and the version they heard about from parents and grandparents at home.

How you can help

Tamara Eason is personally involved in raising money for a non-profit group called Medical Bridges that is raising money to ship a mobile medical office full of medical supplies to Ukraine.
“A lot of lives could be saved if you have a portable medical office,” Eason said.
Medical Bridges raises money to send needed medical supplies around the world, but its efforts right now are focused on Ukraine, Eason said.
Visit for more information or to make a donation.

“We’d go home and they’d be like, ‘Well, OK, we know they taught you that in school, but let me tell you how it really was,’” Eason said. “It was confusing. Like, wait a minute, why are they teaching this in school but they’re teaching that at home?”

The Ukrainian language was allowed and taught in schools, but officials went out of their way to portray it as the language of “hicks,” Eason said.

At home, the history and culture of Ukraine survived.

“It was like a family secret,” Eason said, “told person to person and in some books that were banned. I was just a kid growing up, but I knew there were these two cultures.”

Ukraine’s independence wasn’t won on a battlefield, but the ballot box. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early ‘90s, Ukraine held a referendum with more than 92% voting for independence.
That independence is now under serious threat.

The invasion begun on February 24 caught Eason, her family and the rest of Ukraine by surprise. Ukrainians were aware of Russian troop amassing on the border, but didn’t think war was a real possibility.

“Nobody believed this was going to happen,” Eason said. “And really, how do you prepare for something as major as this? It’s impossible to prepare for. Who knew they were going to be bombing major cities? There was no way to prepare for it because it was such a massive, full-scale attack.”

Some of her cousins live in a small town near Kyiv. Eason said a convoy of Belarusians – allies of the Russians – passed by and was attacked by Ukrainians, scattering the surviving tanks into wheat fields and across the countryside.

With locals watching out of their windows, one small group of soldiers knocked the lock off a store and robbed it, running away as they stuffed bread and sausage into their mouths.

“They were given rations for five days tops,” Eason said. “Here it is Day 7 and they have nothing to eat, so they are stealing food.”

A Ukrainian friend of Eason’s who also lives in the United States calls her parents in Ukraine every hour to check on their well being. They are training locals to shoot guns and holding Molotov cocktail workshops in their backyard.


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