Perham local and former Ukraine resident reflects on Russian invasion

Dave Sweere, who lived in Ukraine for almost 30 years, shared his thoughts on the war with the Perham Rotary Club on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Dave Sweere spoke with the Perham Rotary Club and shared his thoughts on the war in Ukraine on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
Dave Sweere speaks to the Rotary Club at Lakes Cafe during their afternoon meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Though Perham may be very far away from Ukraine, many lakes-area residents have felt the impact of the war from across the ocean since Russia invaded its neighbor in February 2022. Some Perham residents may remember how one of their own, Becca Huesch, assisted refugees in a Polish city bordering Ukraine , but another Perham-area resident holds close ties to this war-torn country: Dave Sweere, who shared his thoughts about the war with the Perham Rotary Club on Thursday, Feb. 9.

"Ukraine was good to me," Sweere said. "I have a lot of love for that place, and I have a lot of friends there that are having a rough time — people scattered all over the world … It's unbelievable."

Though Sweere lived in Ukraine for almost 30 years, he always kept a home in the Perham area, where he was born at the St. James Hospital in 1944. He later studied in a single-room school in Butler until it was consolidated into the New York Mills District when he was in third grade.

After he grew up and had many successful years in both the building restoration and agriculture businesses, Sweere traveled to Ukraine for the first time in 1990.

When Ukraine became independent in 1991, he teamed up with a Ukrainian woman — who he would later be married to for 18 years — and built an agribusiness company over the next 20 years with over 1,000 dealers for distribution in all 25 regions of Ukraine.


When Putin invaded in 2014, however, he and his wife were forced to sell their business. Though he has now returned to live in the Perham area, he still has strong ties to Ukraine. He hopes to develop more business there, but those plans have been on hold since the 2022 Russian invasion. With this insight, Sweere maintains that it's important for everyone to follow international affairs.

"The world is becoming an international place," he said, explaining that Ukraine is one of the world's leading grain producers. "In the case of Ukraine, it's all about the land. It's all about the agribusiness. It's all about food system, food productions, and Ukraine is a real player … That's in the business I've been in all my life, but it's also the livelihood of this community. I think we should be aware of what's going on elsewhere."

Though Sweere said there will be no easy solution to the war, he suggests Perham community members lend their prayers. In her 2022 interview with the Perham Focus, Becca Huebsch suggested donating money to organizations responding to the war. She also strongly recommended researching organizations prior to donating to ensure they spend donations wisely.

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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