Pictured: your fearless editor...well mostly fearless. I try not to show my face online because since December I have been receiving online and in-person threats from Russian sympathisers, so I don't share as much as I used to about who I am or where I live. They got the original Instagram page shut down so we have started over @news_ukraina_22.
Hello everyone! I know it has been a while but I have a lot more time to devote to the page now so I will be providing much more regular updates here as well as maintaining the Instagram page.
Let me share with you my experiences living in Ukraine during the war. I am very fortunate to be in a part of Ukraine which is much safer than the areas currently under attack, so my experience has been thankfully pretty quiet as far as my day to day life goes. I have been busy helping people get connected to local resources, contacting schools and embassies on behalf of international students who were not sure how to evacuate or where to go, and generally working on sharing news about the war.
Western Ukraine has been bombed some, I am not going to act like nothing has happened here, my city was bombed 3 times, but 3 times is much better than the hundreds of times other cities have been bombed. My city is a place where lots of people have evacuated to so it has been a heartbreaking and fascinating experience talking to people who have fled cities such as Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kyiv. The people who evacuated to Western Ukrainian almost exclusively are just waiting for an opportunity to go home again. People who left the country are less likely to return.
I spoke with a woman who knows she has no home to go back to but still wants to go back to her city and help rebuild. Many people arrive in the city with just a backpack, or sometimes just an ATB grocery bag with some important documents and a change of socks and underwear. The city very efficiently handles the incoming migrants, with several points around the city where they can register and then receive information about all the available services in the city. There are volunteer stations all over town where people provide food, clothing, books, supplies. Many of the evacuees from the East speak Russian so there are free Ukrainian language classes available to them, psychological services for children and adults, and social events.
Everyone has rallied together to assist the people who need the most help and it is very inspiring to watch. There were so many volunteers for the Territorial Defence that they could not accept everyone who wanted to join because they were limited in how many people they could train at once. Everyone wants to fight, everyone wants to help. It is strange to walk around town and see the building and monuments that I love sandbagged or covered with shooting nests around their perimeters. You can't take pictures of a lot of that stuff because it could get you in trouble with the police. They detain people taking pictures of the movements of the military, for good reason. There are a number of infiltrators and saboteurs that have been caught all over the country taking pictures of these things and sending them back to the Russian Federation. It is very important to listen to the military, trust only official sources of information and stay quiet!
Air alarms used to be scary but now they are just a fact of life. You could get none, or you could get 7 in a day, you just never know. It makes it hard to make plans, it makes you think very carefully about going out and doing what you need to do each day. I tended to break my day up into "runs." Store-pharmacy-home, regroup. Town square-park-home, regroup. That way you aren't gone too long or caught out somewhere that you don't know where there is a bomb shelter. There are plenty of them but if you don't know the town very well it may be hard to know where they are. The closest one to my house was over 1km away so it was a bit too far to travel there as the sirens sounded, so I choose to shelter in place, following the 2-wall rule. If you are from an area which experiences tornadoes, sheltering in place for an air alarm is very similar to sheltering from a tornado. You just have to do it every day. I have gotten very good at sleeping in my shower.
The news is tragic, but there are lots of silver linings. Cities like Mariupol are being destroyed but the soldiers don't give up, and are even fighting street-to-street in places. We have regained a lot of territory in the past few days, and yesterday the Russians pulled out of Chernobyl. Do I think the war is going to end soon? No. Not really. But at the same time I also think that the tide has completely turned in our favour and that things are going really well. Everyone is eager to get back to their normal lives and continue with life. We all understand that it will never quite be the same but everyone wants to regain a sense of normalcy.
I will follow up with more posts soon, but for now this is the update from your Editor and a brief glimpse into what life is like in Western Ukraine. Have a great weekend and remember to tell your family you love them every day because you really don't know when it will be the last opportunity you have to do so.