“Two weeks ago, I was making my plans with my husband because March 1 was his birthday. We have been building a house for three years and had a big order of windows coming in that week. We were on edge because of Russia, but no one expected this. I woke up and was supposed to have a work call, but bad weather knocked out our power and cell phones. My sister-in-law called and asked if we were okay. She said the bombing had started. There were sirens all over the city, but we are pretty remote and didn’t hear them. I started gathering supplies and organizing my emergency backpack with our documents and necessities. The backpack sits here in front of me every day. We didn’t do anything for my husband’s birthday. He went to work at the block post checking everyone entering and leaving town. I was worried all day and made lunch for the boys working on the block post.
Life has become before and after the war. A week ago, I hoped that it would be over in a few days. Our emotions are roller coasters, and I am finally able to talk about some of this. We are coming to the unfortunate reality that the worst is happening. This war will probably go on for months, maybe years. We have to find ways to continue working or helping. The strongest emotions I have right now are grief, sadness, hatred, and anger. Those are good motivators. When I started feeling the anger, I had to do something. I started checking in with the humanitarian offices and animal shelters to find out what they needed and tried to help get the things on their list. The animal shelters have been bombed and they are evacuating animals from the zoos. The animals are in distress from the bombing.
Almost three million people have left the country so far, but our population is 40 million. Many of us have no plans to leave. I am on the west side of Ukraine. I feel guilty that I’m okay. I still have my job and enough money to support my family and buy groceries. I feel guilty that I can watch Netflix and sleep in a comfortable bed. But Netflix is just on for the noise because I can’t stay in silence.
I use a lot of my money to buy food and supplies for others. We have helped refugees crossing the border into other countries or those who have come here from other regions of Ukraine. Every day, we get messages of what people need, and I go from store to store and try to find them. I was surprised when they asked for underwear for the soldiers. I went to the market and told the woman selling underwear that I needed 25 pairs. She asked if it was for the soldiers. She said, ‘Thank you. My son is on the front lines.’
I live in a small town. The farmers are trying to work, but it’s hard for them. A lot of the shelves in the supermarket are empty, but we can still get the basics. They aren’t selling alcohol anywhere. One of the biggest issues is finding medicine. The pharmacies are out. I can’t even find bandages for my first aid kit.
Everyone is doing something right now. Many are finding ways to continue fighting. Some are volunteering or cooking for soldiers or sewing military uniforms or making camouflage nets. People are giving what they have from their houses to help someone else. We were supposed to move into our house this fall. I have been stocking up on blankets, towels, and things we needed, but I took all of it to the shelter.
The world is watching us right now. It is great to see people amazed and inspired by our bravery, but do you realize what this is costing us?
I was born in an independent Ukraine. The first years of Ukrainian independence were a struggle. Everyone was broke, and it was hard to even get groceries. My family struggled a lot. In school, I didn’t like learning Ukrainian history and literature because there were so many horrible things that happened in Ukraine. My grandparents were born in the 1920s and went through Holodomor which was a terror famine as a consequence of Soviet regime and World War II. They told me not to trust the Russians. As a kid, I didn’t know what they were talking about. Ukraine grew for 30 years and never looked back. But now there are Russians who say we are getting what we deserve because we are Nazis. It’s horrific the damage that propaganda can do. Some of us are trying to fight the propaganda and block the fake news. But now I understand the lessons my grandparents were trying to teach me, because it’s not the Russian leader who is pulling the trigger, it’s ordinary people who are choosing to kill our civilians, who are using children as human shields, who didn’t even stop at shooting the maternity hospital.
Ukraine had some bad presidents, but our people took to the streets and had two revolutions––the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity. I was about to get my Bachelor’s degree when the Revolution of Dignity started in 2013. Students protested the streets and volunteered. We know the value of freedom. And we are not willing to give it up.
Who knows how many Ukrainians have been killed in the last two weeks? It’s horrible to feel desperate all of the time and not to sleep, but it also feels scary to adapt to war. I work for an international company and was offered a chance to leave. I can’t go without my husband, and he can’t cross the border and has to stay and fight. I also can’t leave my dogs, my parents, or my sisters here. If I leave, I would leave alone. Life without the people I love is not the life I want to live. So I choose to stay, continue the fight, and look forward to the day when we hear the words ‘Ukraine has won the war’ and we sing our national anthem in our once again free, independent and beautiful country.
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!”
If you want to help, here is a link to a fundraiser that is supporting Masha’s work. There is a video of her describing their work on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/donate/683864432892658/3114821152110379/