For most of us this war feels like a nightmare or witnessing an alien attack in a blockbuster movie on our TVs, online media, or the radio. For those who are living in Ukraine, including our families and friends who are there, it is a brutal, terrorizing, dangerous, and unrelenting war. We recognize that writing this for our community may also has such an effect, but we hope and trust that our community and the world continues to witness and fight to end this senseless genocidal aggression. We also hope that this war might be the last of any such wars or any wars — to make visible to us the importance of peace for all people and protection from violence.
Each night, very late, we say goodbye to our families as we try to get some rest here. Each morning we awake with news that seems worse. In each call we make or text we write we tell our families to hold on, stay safe, and that we love them. We send each other memes and poems and newsbits and then we tell each other we love each other. We try to manage our day-to-day lives while checking our texts and phones to tell our Ukrainian family and friends there we love them and we hope they are safe.
Most of my friends and family are in cities that are being heavily shelled by the Russian Army. Russian troops are just randomly shelling residential neighborhoods, as well as critical infrastructure to stop the flow of water and electricity in cities.
In Mariupol, my hometown, my friends and relatives were hiding in bathtubs (the safest place in their apartments) for 36 hours straight, because the town was shelled nonstop for almost two days. They cannot get food or leave the shelter, as they hear constant explosions right next to their apartment buildings. They all have small children, who are all distressed, shocked, and scared.
I do not know which of my friends and family in Mariupol are safe and alive. I try to call and text them every hour, but not all of them have cell phone connections or Internet connections because of the attacks. Just over a week ago they were living normal lives in a modern European city with a tree-lined waterfront, and now they are hiding from bombs and explosions.
I have never witnessed such absolute dedication from all Ukrainians in Ukraine and around the world to our freedom, the right to our land and our lives, to our own culture and our remarkable government leaders, especially Volodymyr Zelensky. Most civilians have been hiding out in shelters, basements, unfinished underground farm storages, underground Metro stations, or anywhere that is safe. It is terrifying, often very cold (northern Ukraine daytime highs right now in the thirties), and uncertain. Though people are singing, playing cards, witnessing births of babies and trying to support each other any way they can.
The shelling and bombing in cities is often nearly constant and often at night. In Kyiv, my family experienced not only shelling and bombing from rapid-firing artillery, but also an active military operation right outside their homes.
In my experience people feel very determined, angry (even the most erudite and educated Ukrainians among us have resorted to profanities that only seem fitting for what we are experiencing), and deeply hurt when there is lack of support from the world community. Everyone is talking about babies born in basements and underground Metro stations, of parents asked to write their children’s names, ages, and blood type with a permanent markers on their arms and legs in case of an attack and separation from parents.
In many cities, especially Kyiv, people pass on to each other news from the government recommendations for how to deal with increases in levels of radiation or biological warfare.
My family also always discusses Russian disinformation about the war. Even though concerted efforts have been made to restrict the flow of Putin’s propaganda, Russian propaganda abounds on social media.
Ukrainians are living through this nightmare, so they definitely know the truth. The truth we witness is not only a barbaric brutal war, not only the needless destruction of human lives, but also decimation of beautiful ancient monuments, priceless world treasures, churches, synagogues, monuments, rich farmlands, animals — the list goes on.
Lastly, in my experience with my family in Ukraine and Ukrainian community here, any news of the world standing together against the war boosts their and our spirit.
As we witness this war, we Ukrainian Americans with families and friends who this very moment are suffering in Ukraine, we hope all of you join us and the world to #StandWithUkraine. Please continue to demand our government and world leaders to do everything they can to stop the war and to donate in support of our military, our refugees, and our wounded people.