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Close to home: South Jordan’s surprising ties to Ukraine

Apr 03, 2022 07:06PM ● By Collin Leonard

Mayor Dawn Ramsey and Rep. Susan Pulsipher on the steps of the Utah State

By Collin Leonard | [email protected]

State Rep. Jordan Teuscher from District 42 took to the podium at South Jordan’s City Council meeting ahead of the approval of a new resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The South Jordan native’s ties to the region run deep; he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Ukraine, and met his wife Aliona while practicing law there. He still volunteers as a translator for families adopting Ukrainian orphans.

The invasion has forced the Teuscher's friends and family to join the mass exodus of more than 3 million refugees pouring into Eastern Europe. Thankfully, Aliona Teuscher’s mother and sister safely made the journey to Romania for sanctuary.

The state representative began his statements by reading a short poem from the poet Taras Shevchenko, a major figure of the Ukrainian national revival. The poem starts:

Dear God, calamity again!..

It was so peaceful, so serene

Teuscher used these lines and a brief historical account of the region to provide context for current events. "I strongly believe that if we don’t take the necessary steps right now this is not going to stop at Ukraine," he said. “It’s not simply just a civil war, it's really an assault against democracy and an assault against all of us.” The cities of Kyiv, Mariupol, and Kherson, among others, have been especially devastated by airborne attacks since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

The state representative is looking forward to “the opportunity to step up as a state and accept those refugees… integrate them into our great community.” The refugee ceiling has increased from 18,000 to 125,000 in the past two years, but according to the National Immigration Forum, resettlement infrastructure remains depleted. Currently the lengthy resettlement process takes an average of 18-24 months.

Some criticized the council’s actions online, questioning the practical value and political timing of the action. At the state legislative session, an identical resolution co-sponsored by Jordan Teuscher was passed on Feb. 28. The city’s resolution was initiated by Councilmember Don Shelton, who was at first hesitant to bring it forward. “We’ve really made an effort to not get caught up in political machinations that are going on outside our city,” he said, but indicated the reality of the situation “was just weighing on [him] so much.”

The approval came the day before Ukrainian President Zelensky, from a bunker in Kyiv, gave his virtual address to Congress to plead for the U.S support of a no-fly zone and a complete withdrawal of American businesses from Russia. President Biden committed another $800 million in military assistance following the address.

Mayor Dawn Ramsey was a strong advocate for the resolution, while acknowledging how limited the options are for action on a local level. “We realize there is not much South Jordan can do to end the conflict in Ukraine,” Ramsey said. “However, President Zelensky has asked for expressions of support from governments across the world.”

She recently took to the steps of the state capitol along with hundreds of others during the Utah Ukrainian Association’s rally. “We want to add our voice to the global response for democracy by publicly expressing that we stand firmly with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”