Thursday, February 24, 2022, might as well be the longest day of my life. I woke up to a message with a crying emoji from my friend. “She’s just stressed before her driving exam”, I thought, and continued to open another message—this one from my mom. The message was staggering: “How are you, we are at war”. I immediately opened Twitter and the first tweet I saw was a video of a missile exploding at Ivano-Frankivsk airport—just 133 km from my hometown, Lviv. (I didn’t know yet that even closer towns had been targeted).
We’re at war
What? How is this possible? This can’t be true.
But it was, and is, true. I know that the possibility of an invasion had been all over the media for a few weeks, but it was never predicted that the whole country could be under attack, not in any worst-case scenario. The world broke down that night. Diplomacy failed. Early in the morning of that Thursday, Russia invaded Ukraine, first targeting military bases and airports all around the country, then destroying civilian infrastructure, shelling kindergartens and sending missiles into residential buildings.
Just a few days ago, my friends and I were planning our spring break trips and discussing normal things, like the latest TV series we’ve been watching and the best sourdough bread in town. After February 24, we’re discussing bomb shelters, fighting to spread true information online, and keeping our families safe. This feels surreal.
Observing the war from abroad feels even more surreal. I know I’m safe, but I also feel kind of helpless. Shouldn’t I be there? Will I have somewhere to go back to? Is everyone I love okay?
History repeats itself
I keep recalling the stories from WW2 my late grandma used to tell me. Our family home still has a bullet hole from that time. What if it is shelled again, but 75 years later?
It’s absolutely crazy how we now live in the most technologically advanced era, with access to information in mere seconds, modern medicine and whatnot, and yet, this is actually happening right in the middle of Europe. Women are giving birth in underground shelters, my peers are sacrificing their lives to stop Russian tanks from entering our cities, the Ukrainian capital Kyiv—home to more than 3 million people—is under attack from all directions.
While I continue to anxiously watch the situation unfold, I also feel immensely proud of everyone standing up to our aggressor. My heart goes out to not only to the brave armed forces fighting on the front lines but to everyone who shows support, either on a state or individual level. At times like this, our power is in our unity—one can no longer stay apolitical. And I honestly think that the world is finally starting to realize that the threat of Russia is not only our problem, it can affect many more nations and many more millions of people. In the 21st century, there shouldn’t be a place for any kind of war, in any place of the world. It’s a lesson we should have learned from history, but somehow we failed.
Our spirit is undefeated
Over the past few days, I’ve received messages from friends from all over the world—from Poland and Germany to the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. My apartment in the center of Lviv has become a temporary home to six refugees from different cities. My friends are volunteering to help support the army. I talked to a friend the other day and she sounded desperate: “I need to find out where to buy 3,500 bulletproof vests.” Today, she has already accomplished this, and will move on to another task. Even my dad, the biggest pessimist of all, remains optimistic—aside from continuing to work as a surgeon at a local emergency hospital, he’s ready to ditch his wine bar for Molotov cocktails.
No matter where you are watching the news today—whether it’s from a basement while air raid sirens blare out warnings of danger in your hometown or from the safety of Iceland—the unwavering Ukrainian persistence and our will for freedom is clear. It’s a reminder that democracy is still worth fighting for. As a cover of the ‘Daily Express’ recently declared: it’s the free world v. Putin now.
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