Alyona Syniavina has lived in Sydney for three years, but she still calls the Crimean city of Theodosia home.
Born in Ukraine, she says she is happy to see her hometown become part of Russia.
“I see myself as Russian because I’m ethnically Russian,” she explains.
“The passport doesn’t change anything. My parents are Russian, my grandparents are Russian. It’s a cultural thing.”
Around 80 per cent of those who live in Crimea speak Russian, a legacy of its recent history.
The coastal region was part of Russia until 1954, when it was gifted to Ukraine by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
It’s a change Alyona’s parents saw first-hand.
They were born in Crimea while it was still part of the Soviet Union, remaining there as it became Ukraine.
“Now Crimea’s going back to Russia, so they’re kind of Russian now again,” she says.
Russian-born, Sydney-based youth leader Artjom Laletin also sees positives in Crimea’s future under Russia.
“The financial benefits are definitely topping the list, but the main reason is safety. They’re not being hassled like the rest of Ukraine.”
Australia has joined the US, Britain and the European Union in imposing sanctions on Russia following a referendum clouded by questions of legality.
At the Ukrainian Centre in western Sydney, Wasyl Senko remains deeply skeptical about the referendum’s results.
He recently helped organise demonstrations in Sydney against Russia’s presence in Crimea.
“What if in a year or two Putin decides to have an eastern part of Ukraine and go through whole of Black Sea, and also go to Moldova because there’s a Russian population in Moldova?”
He is also concerned that those listening to the Russian-language media are not hearing the full picture.
“We are working against gargantuan Russian propaganda machine in Vladimir Putin.”
His friend Jaroslav Duma says the protests are not aimed at Australia’s Russian community but at political leadership.
“Our beef has never been with any other community here in Australia,” he says.
“We believe every country under the former Soviet Union should retain its democracy, as it has been for the last 20 or so years.”
“Our beef has been purely with the regime, with Vladimir Putin at its head.”
Dr Leonid Petrov, political analyst from Australian National University, says Russia’s actions in Crimea have deeply divided Russian speaking communities across the world.
“There’s a big explosion of feud between Russian compatriots, not only from Russia and Ukraine but from other former Soviet Union spending days and nights on Facebook and other forums, attacking each other based on their political preferences.”
Some question the intentions of the West, others warn of the dangers of Russian government influence on media reports.
“It was a much better situation back in the early 2000s ” says Dr Petrov.
“I remember the sense of reconciliation and understanding between different sections of the community.”
Then came war in Chechnya, conflict in Georgia and the latest crisis in Crimea.
Dr Petrov places the blame for the latest community discontent squarely on the shoulders of Russia’s President.
“Russian speakers look at each other through the prism of these ideological wars, and I think we have to blame President Putin for this reckless policy.”
Two things everyone appears to agree on is a desire for peace, and the need to seek truth.