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The war in Ukraine and the Sonoma County author who saw it coming

A Sonoma County author and former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), foreshadowed the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a book she published 8 years ago.

In her 2014 book “Putin’s Putsches,” Maria Halyna Lewytzkyj-Milligan, a Ukrainian-American writer, provided a compelling description of the conditions that led to this current war. These include the pro-Western uprising in Ukraine beginning in 2013 known as “Maidan” which overthrew the corrupt pro-Russian government; Vladimir Putin’s ambition to restore the Russian empire he grew up in; and the increased Russian interference with Ukrainian affairs, particularly in Eastern Ukraine.

Maria Halyna Lewytzkyj-Milligan. Photo provided.
Maria Halyna Lewytzkyj-Milligan. Photo provided.

Maria wrote with remarkable prescience about the Russian military and political intervention in Ukraine and the effect that these pressures had on ordinary people living there. She profiled 12 citizens living throughout the occupied regions of Donbas and Crimea, all of whom were fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy in their own ways.

With help from Maria, I was able to get in contact with these Ukrainians and find out how several were coping with the Russian invasion 8 years later.


Anna Pavlychko is a mother and a manager for an aviation company who has lived her entire life in Crimea. She considers herself a patriotic Ukrainian and was devastated when Russia took over Crimea in 2014. The book describes her opposition to the occupation.

In an email to me, she described for me how the Russians methodically took over the media and imposed a police state atmosphere in Crimea since 2014. “There are signs everywhere urging people to report to the authorities anything “suspicious.” The TV is full of Russian-controlled propaganda, demonizing the West and describing the war as an effort to liberate Ukraine from the Nazis.”

Distressed, she finally moved to Irpin, a suburb of Kiev, some time ago. Unfortunately, Irpin became one of the battle zones in the fight for the capital, and she was forced to flee to Moldova. “Irpin is destroyed, bombs fell everywhere, and I do not even know if the place where we lived still exists. My job is gone. I’m not sure where I’ll go now.”


Rustem Skibin is a Ukrainian artist with Tatar and Uzbek roots. After art school, he opened a studio of his ceramic art in the Crimea. The occupation by Russian troops there threatened his family, so he fled to Kiev 8 years ago.

Since the 2022 war started, Rustem has stayed in Kiev and has been helping victims and refugees. In the first few weeks, he drove people fleeing the violence to the railway station. Now, his charitable organization has signed on with the Armed Forces of Ukraine to provide humanitarian aid to families suffering due to the war.

Rustem has also created a haunting piece of art highlighting the destruction of Mariupol. The buildings in the poster he drew below spells “діти” which means children in Ukrainian.

Poster by Rustem
Poster by Rustem


Tatyana Zarovnaya is a journalist from Donetsk in the east. There, surrounded by Russian-backed separatist forces, Tatyana risked her life covering the struggle over Donbas. “In Donetsk, citizens began to be killed for their political beliefs and views. Anyone who expressed commitment to Ukraine could be killed, kidnapped, or tortured. Several of my friends were killed in the spring of 2014.”

She eventually fled to Kiev. “The second time Russia took my house from me was in March 2022. A shell from Russian soldiers flew into my new house near Kiev.” Currently, she stays in western Ukraine with friends.

“I am sure that we will be able to defeat the aggressor,” she wrote me by email. “We will be able to protect not only the future of our children but also European civilization. What is happening today in Ukraine is a war of civilizations. Putin’s civilization is the destruction of everything human, it is chauvinism and dictatorship. Our values are freedom, development and human rights.”

Where to learn more

If you wish to read Maria Halyna Lewytzkyj’s powerful book, you can find it on Amazon at:

Before working for the CIA, Maria earned her MA at Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a BA from San Francisco State University. Maria is now a freelance editor and writer, but she is currently volunteering much of her time, helping Ukrainian refugees obtain humanitarian assistance and help resettling abroad.

One of my own former clients from Ukraine, Oleg, contacted me recently; I had helped him obtain asylum here over 15 years ago. Now, he’s a heart surgeon at a local hospital. I asked him if his family needed help getting refugee status. No, he said. His 65-year-old father and both his brothers had joined the Territorial Defense, while his mother works as a nurse.

The struggle for freedom in Ukraine is not new; it’s multi-generational and enduring. Слава українським героям! (Glory to the Ukrainian heroes!)

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