“He started. We got explosions all around here.”
The 24th of February started at 5.52 am with this message I received from my boyfriend.
In the modern European world, we are used to taking some things for granted. One thing amongst others is peace. Well-known values of freedom of speech, liberal democracy, human dignity, and the rule of law, have been synonyms to the political and economic union, which have been consolidating the brightest politicians, experts, and, saying simpler, human beings.
In 2014, I left my hometown, Donetsk, and never came back. A life chapter of my sixteen conscious years of living in the Donbas regions ended. We started our life from scratch – in the new school, workplace, flat… In May 2014, things were escalating. It became unsafe to take public transport in order to pass college finals; what is more, at school, I often felt like I was being exposed to pro-Russian propaganda.
I am grateful to my family, always trying to choose a Ukrainian school for me, even in Donetsk, which was not easy. I felt crucial to study in Ukrainian, supporting the beginning of peaceful protests on the Independence Squire in 2013. At the same time, my teachers kept saying, “why wouldn’t they just shoot them all, so no one breaks the social and political order?”.
It might sound like a messy patchwork, but this is what I have in mind reflecting on my past – which is not the easiest part as, objectively, I was just cut down from the life routine, friends, places I love, etc.
In 2014, Russia broke into my home country, having annexed Crimea and Donbas region. In 2022, the story has become large-scale: the Russian army has been invading almost every region of Ukraine, launching rockets, sending tanks, destroying civilians’ districts. No one asked for any help from Russia’s side, to help us, to save us from anyone either: “suitcase-> railway station-> Russia” – we were saying back to 2014 to those blaming the Ukrainian government.
This year, being abroad, I have no opportunity and, what is even worse, no clear understanding of when and where I can hug my family and the closest. Being apart from them causes emotional instability, endless anxiety, and a desire to do at least something to help the whole country, help my people. Apparently, my family has remained calm under Russian attacks – which makes me proud of them – even calmer than I have been.
We left our hometown once, and we will not betray our country today, eight years later, as we have no other place to hide; we are on our own land. We lost our lives once, but we revived and went on. We built a strong army, strong communication within the country.
I cannot let myself feel any fear as this is what Russia wants – to destroy us from inside. But this is mainly the only thing I can feel right now – for my family, my friends, and my future. These are Ukrainians and only Ukrainians protecting ourselves from dictatorship. The performative diplomacy does not work out, we see lack of actual steps, while the Ukrainian Armed Forces retain the Ukrainian dignity and state.
My truly and the only one home has been always Ukraine. With Crimea and Donbas. Sumy and Chernivtsi. Odessa and Carpathians. My home is being bombed and people are suffering. Those people who resurrected it from the dust eight years ago.
I wish every morning started with ‘hey sweetie, have a great day’, not with shared news about civilian victims and destroyed buildings – which is the reality of every Ukrainian family.
We are strong and we know that. We do not need any of your pity. We need your action, from every outpost you have been at. Do it, sanction it, show your European values at work, not in words only.