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EXCLUSIVE: As bullets fly a world away, Russian and Ukrainian-Americans live in peace, as neighbors, in Southbury

Russian Village or 'Churaevka' in Southbury was established by Russian refugees in 1923 as an art and culture retreat

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — As Russian and Ukrainian military forces take up arms against each other, there’s a sleepy spot in Connecticut where Russian and Ukrainian-Americans live in peace as next-door neighbors. Russia is frozen in time in the rolling hills of Southbury. 

It’s called ‘Churaevka’ but is more commonly known as Russian Village. 

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“Russian Village was founded by a group of people who left Czarist Russia and tried to establish an artist colony in Connecticut,” explained Renate Ringstad, who owns a home in Russian Village.

Russian Village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally established as a Russian refugee retreat. There are about 40 structures across the village, which were constructed in the 1920s. Much of the period architecture remains, including a chapel that was built in response to the destruction of a cathedral in Moscow at the hands of the Soviets. Now, it’s the Ukrainian churches that are under fire.

A road within the village is called Kiev Drive. Mieka Crider is the former President of the Russian Village Association. 

“We fault Russia in this debacle that they are creating,” said Crider.

Most of the Russians who settled in Russian Village have since passed away, but a few remain.

“Just because we live in Russian Village doesn’t mean we are on the side of the Russians,” explained Crider.

In some cases, the Russians are neighbors to Ukrainians like Renate Ringstad. She remarked on the conflict that is tearing the country apart. 

“They are losing their lives. Their land is threatened, their independence is threatened, I think it’s awful,” explained Ringstad.

Those who we talked to told FOX61 the Ukrainians and Russians share a common bloodline and what unites them culturally is bigger than what divides them politically. 

“The people of Ukraine and the people of Russia aren’t enemies, Putin is the enemy,” said Jason Novak, who was born in Ukraine before immigrating to Connecticut when he was a young boy.

Novak hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep in the last six days. 

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“It’s been wave after wave of emotion,” said Novak. “To have the place where you were born just bombed and attacked like this there are really no words to describe it."

When Jason first came to Connecticut, no one knew where Ukraine was on a map. Now, they’ll never forget. He would tell people he was from Russia. 

“I’m sure as hell not saying that anymore,” Novak remarked.

RELATED: Connecticut joins other states in divesting pension funds from Russian owned assets

The Ukrainian Americans who FOX61 spoke with say Putin’s plan to divide and bully the Ukrainian people has failed. Instead, the country has never been more United. Meanwhile, Russian Village remains as calm and as peaceful as it was in 1923.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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