The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought along immeasurable tragedy, hardships and mental grief for everyone, but especially for the citizens caught in the crossfire, which include my family.
I was born in Moscow, and immigrated to the US at the age of 10. I have immediate family in both Russia and Ukraine.
My father lives on the outskirts, while my brother has been living in the port city Odessa in Southern Ukraine for the past three years. Odessa was one of the first cities hit by Russian shelling. My brother was among the lucky few who had the opportunity to leave the city, heading toward the Polish border.
My brother was among the lucky few who had the opportunity to leave the city, heading towards the Polish border.
Being a U.S. citizen, he was also one of the few able-bodied men that were let out of the country. The rest have to stay in case of a military draft. He is in Germany now, and hopes to return to Odessa soon but doesn’t know if his home will be there when he does.
The dubious reasons for this offensive, the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and nuclear power plants alike, highlight a pattern of disdain for basic human rights and a disregard for laws of war. At the center of it all is one man that wields enough power to destroy the livelihood of millions of people without a second thought.
While incomparable to the atrocities faced by the Ukrainian citizens, the mental health of all reasonable and empathetic people all over the world has taken a toll.
I sit in my nice apartment in Encino while typing this article. I have my cat perched on my lap purring quietly, a cup of tea emitting slight plumes of steam, and numerous books scattered all over the table. I feel ashamed of my privileged position and the safety net I have.
So, every 10 minutes I have to check the news. I have to see what the people are going through; I have to hear their voices, their hopes and dreams. After all, if I did not, would that not be considered willful ignorance?
My friend Vika Aytuganova said she left her hometown near Kyiv just days before it was encircled by Russian troops.
“The whole sky was red. There is no light, electricity, phone service, or internet,” Aytuganova said. “Yesterday we fled to Western Ukraine. Today we are going to the border.”
The connection was choppy, with her voice cutting in and out throughout our call. She sounded tired and distraught.
I felt helpless. I did not know what I could say to make her feel better. There were no right words that I could muster. This made me think of my own undeniable connection to this conflict.
My powerlessness to do anything more than donate funds and resources to aid Ukraine infuriates me. As much as I know it to be a logical fallacy, I feel responsible for the actions of my countrymen.
This sense of collective guilt and responsibility is wrong for a number of reasons, primarily, because 99.9 percent of the Russian population has absolutely no say in the actions of the Russian government.
Also, it would be erroneous to assume that the Russian people are in support of this war, or even in support of their government. The majority of the people I know, my family and friends are as appalled at Putin’s actions as I am. They are protesting on the streets at the risk of arrest and persecution. I know that if I was in Russia, I would be in jail for speaking my mind.
The atrocities that Putin is committing are unfathomable. The photos and videos coming from Ukraine show the extent of destruction that he has brought upon Ukraine. Amidst the terror, death, and misery, one thing is becoming clear.
The levels of resilience, perseverance, bravery, and humanity displayed by the Ukrainian people are beyond our understanding. The nation of 43 million stands strong in the face of the Russian invaders, making them earn each inch of land with blood and shame.
I’ve seen images of elderly women creating Molotov cocktails to support and supply their troops. I’ve seen videos of farmers on tractors, hauling off Russian tanks to turn them over to the Ukrainian armed forces. I’ve also seen civilian footage of bodies on the streets. Children, mothers, fathers, dead. The Russian artillery does not discriminate.
This raises the question of what can the average Pierce College student do to show their support for the citizens of Ukraine? The answers vary, but there is one that I’ve heard a lot from my Ukrainian friends and family: share the truth of what is happening.
The world needs to be aware of the immense human cost of Putin’s actions. Many Russian citizens are still unaware of the extent of the atrocities since the media is almost entirely controlled by the government.
There are also a number of organizations that distribute humanitarian aid and resources for the displaced and suffering population of Ukraine. Doctors Without Borders and the Ukrainian Red Cross are actively providing medical aid inside the war zone.
You can also donate to humanitarian organizations in bordering countries that are focused on housing and supporting refugees, such as the Polish Humanitarian Action and R2P, a Ukrainian-based organization.
Do your best, whatever that might be. Do not resist the urge to help. Do not blame the people for the actions of one man who does not care about anyone else. Do share the truth, as dark and inhumane as it might be. Do not avoid the news, just because the gloom seems to overpower the feelings of hope. We will get through this together.