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| 6 minutes read

Life in Ukraine - Anna's story

Like millions of people across the world, we were stunned by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and are appalled by the continued attacks. Our hearts go out to the Ukrainian people and their loved ones at this difficult time. 

We are in awe of the courage, strength and determination demonstrated by those who are fighting for the freedom of their homeland and we hope that those seeking sanctuary find refuge and safety. 

We’re so grateful to our friend and colleague, Anna Poliakova, for sharing her first-hand experience of what is happening in Ukraine…

Anna's story

I woke up to bomb sounds at 5am on 24th of February in Kyiv. And since then - nothing is like it was before. My possessions are not with me, even though I am glad we packed our backpacks 5 days before the war - it seemed like a joke, we never thought the war would actually start. But this helped a lot. We had a 24-30 hour drive on the road that usually takes around 5-6 hours. While driving, I was reading about the places we were just 2 hours before being bombed and dangerous to drive through. We saw bombs falling when we were standing in a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere.

I don't miss my belongings that much, but I miss my friends - a couple who had a newborn a couple of days before war started and are still in Kyiv, my best friend in Kyiv that declined to evacuate and is volunteering and helping people while running between shootings and bombings, my friend in Poltava that owns a pharmacy and gives away all of the meds he has with short breaks to where there are bombs falling near them outside. These are people I love so much and don't wanna lose at any cost.

I also think about how my apartment is right near the Kyiv Laboratory of Nuclear researches (nothing spectacular there, just a little old post-USSR research lab) - the chances of it being bombed are so high, as Russians are obsessed with everything including the words "nuclear" and "laboratory", I am scared to wake up and read that my home doesn't exist anymore.

I also had my first panic attack when we were driving to receive meds and humanitarian aid from Italy - we had our radio turned up high and there was a loud "bammm" in the music. I instantly stopped the car and cried for around 30 minutes. I think this little PTSD part will be with me for a long time now. We don't listen to music in our car anymore, we just drive in silence.

I am not scared of what Ukraine will be after this all ends. We are Ukrainians and that's our superpower.

Surely that's a big bomb for our economics, as well as for the whole world's economics. We will face this crisis, we will need to rebuild cities, schools, and hospitals. This will take time and I really hope reparations will be paid off fully.

Whilst my job depends on foreign clients and I still have the ability to work, millions of Ukrainians work for Ukrainian-based businesses of different sizes. So it's in everyone's interest to finish this war asap, this way businesses can stay alive, bring back salaries to their employees and start living again. I hope this happens really soon.

As I am in Lviv - a western Ukrainian city, there is almost no bombing here. Even though a lot of people think Putin prepared something "interesting" for us - Lviv is considered to be the centre of everything bad and nazi by his version of world history.  It's because most people here speak Ukrainian.

People here are driven with anger, anger to hold our freedom in our hands. Literally everyone I know now is volunteering, collecting stuff for army/civilians, preparing food, and hosting refugees - over 300,000 refugees from the central part are here - almost all of them are women and children that need help and food.

At this moment, I would like people to understand what has been going on between Ukraine and Russia for the whole history of their relationship. This way people can better understand why Putin is so intent on committing genocide against Ukrainians.

There are a couple of facts from Ukrainian history I really recommend diving into - there are tons of stories like these, but here are just a couple that will give you a brief overview of Russians having committed genocide against the Ukrainian culture, people and language for centuries:

  • Ems Ukaz - total forbiddance of Ukrainian language in Russian Empire
  • Mass killing of Ukrainian artists, writers, musicians, scientists and new elite in the 1930s 
  • Mass killing of Ukrainian artists - writers, musicians, scientists and new elite in 1960s (no no, I am not mistaken, it happened not once, but twice) 
  • Holodomor - 3.5 million Ukrainian people died from starvation over 2 years, as the Russian republic took away any food they had and killed people for trying to feed their family. Russia doesn't acknowledge this ever happened and doesn't recognise it as genocide. Other republics of the USSR were living without limitations on food during this time, this only targeted Ukrainians.

This will give you a brief understanding of what is going on, why Putin won't stop, why it is scary for us when any Russian politician starts getting obsessed with Ukraine and what Ukrainians want to be their whole life - free.

So the main thing is: please go to demonstrations, please ask for very tough sanctions, please ask NATO to close our sky. Please, let us do what we have wanted for so long - to be free from Russian aggression.

I suggest following these news sources for real-time updates:

If you’d like to make a donation, I would say specific things are better now than abstract things. If you have a list of things a small group in Ukraine has asked for - please, by all means, go ahead and get this. It’s better to help by making sure what you donate really makes sense and is needed. If you cannot purchase anything, but would like to donate - I recommend donating to small organisations/funds or Ukrainians that are in your country/city right now - they're the most interested in bringing the specific things our army/civilians need.

I’d not only like to ask for things but to give thanks. Thanks to everyone, literally everyone who is helping us right now - we see how helpful people are, saving our mothers and children, giving them shelter, food, water and a hope for life. This is not passing by unnoticed, we see this, we feel your support and we are extremely thankful for that. We might be shocked, scared, panicking, we might forget to say simple words like "Thank you", but our hearts are full of love to all the amazing people in the world standing with us right now.

During this time, the Passle team has been extremely supportive. There was no situation they didn't try to help with or any question that was left without an answer. So I was amazed, but not surprised when they were trying to help in any way possible once this war started. There was probably no team member I worked with before, who didn't write to me asking how they can help or sending prayers, as well as donations, proposals of places to stay, and many many others. They are truly the kindest people I know.

I see no way that Russia can win this war. It's just a matter of time -  how soon they'll come to realise, with their "Z" symbols everywhere and speeches about cleaning out "wrong" people in Ukraine. The sad part is that the time they take to understand it is measured in Ukrainian children that will never see their parents again, mothers that might cry over their children’s bodies, and fathers who will kiss their families goodbye and never come home again.

We will rise and be what Ukrainians always were - free, beautiful, talented, and fighting for their freedom at the cost of their own life, without any doubts. It is just a matter of time. I hope - a really short matter of time.

- - - - 

During these dark times, it’s easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed, but the efforts we have seen across our communities in response to the crisis have been truly remarkable. 

There are a number of ways to support the people affected by the conflict as Anna mentioned. You can also donate to one of the many registered charities providing vital services to people in Ukraine right now, these include:

The Ukrainian Institute in London has also compiled an extensive list of resources and other ways you can support the people of Ukraine.

To our friends, colleagues and to the families of Ukraine, we stand with you and hope for a safe and prosperous future for you and generations to come.

I am not scared of what Ukraine will be after this all ends. We are Ukrainians and that's our superpower.


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