While people all around the world watch the retreat of businesses and sanctions be placed in Russia, how are citizens affected? What are their lives like? What have they lost? Ukraine severed all formal diplomatic ties with Russia on February 24th, 2022, and the world has since rallied behind Ukraine. The Russian military has compromised some of Ukraine’s largest cities, and irreversible damage has been created.
Tragic stories of death and tragedy are popping up all across Ukraine. Although numbers are unconfirmed, around five hundred Ukrainians have been killed. “The Russians shelled even the cemetery,” said Ukrainian citizen, Shlonska. “They fear even our dead.” Shlonska’s husband, Volodymyr Nezhenets, was brutally killed on February 27 at age 54. Nezenets signed up to defend his country only a week before his death. Merely three and a half hours before Nezhenets passed, he called his wife, ensuring that he would be home soon. Although risking her life, Shlonska stayed to honor her brave husband.
The survivors’ struggles are compounded since also their safety is at risk. All around them, morgues are filling up and police stations are overwhelmed.” In Mariupol, mass graves were organized. Hundreds of bodies have been wrapped in carpets due to a lack of better resources.
Many civilians have opted to evacuate. According to the UN, over two million people have evacuated Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion around two weeks ago. The evacuation process has continued even with the recent ceasefire by the Ukrainian military in order to allow citizens to evacuate. The cease-fire allows people to evacuate in “green corridors” which are safe routes leading away from places like Irpin, Sumy, and Mariupol. Despite the intended safety of these routes, they are being targeted by the Russian army. Many situations lead to the separation of families, as only women and children can leave the country. The number of people displaced in the shortest amount of time climbs to the largest population since World War II.
Bravery is being demonstrated by the Ukrainian citizens. Many dedicated Ukrainians have stayed to fight for their country. Women are joining the war, and a wave of pride and Ukrainian strength has erupted in the military. One soldier sums it up in a few words, saying, “Well, I’m here in order to protect my family, my country and my region, my people.”
There are many other stories of heroic acts seen by Ukrainian citizens, and bravery doesn’t just come in a uniform. When crossed with a difficult situation, mother Nataliya Ableyeva is a hero. While trying to cross the border in order to evacuate, a 38-year-old father and his two children were stopped. They could not pass as the father’s duty was needed for Ukrainian defense. At that moment, he decided that most likely changed his children’s lives. The father asked a complete stranger to take his children across the border to Hungary, where their mother would meet them on the way from Italy. Anna Semyuk, the children’s mother, was reunited with her children after a successful evacuation. Anna Semyuks and Volodymyr Nezhenets stories are not uncommon and there are thousands of more stories exactly like these. There are around twenty-three million refugees fleeing Ukraine since February 24, 2022, and the numbers are still growing. Casualties are unconfirmed, but the UN estimates over five hundred fifty civilian deaths as well as one thousand injured.
Each citizen has a unique situation, whether that be an evacuation, living in the heat of the invasion, or mourning those lost. Materials and foods are hard to come by yet abandoning the country has become even harder. Across cities and countries, families have been torn apart. Through the heat of it all, Ukrainian citizens remain united. Although fearful for their lives, loved ones, and family, a united front is present in their fight to regain peace.