Russia's War on Ukraine

Russia’s war in Ukraine began in 2014 and has continued for the past eight years. On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, initiating a full-scale war and elevating the crisis to a new level. What is motivating Putin’s moves now, and what background do we need to understand why? The resources on this page help explain.

Serhii Plokhii (Director)

"War in Ukraine: interview with Serhii Plokhii, director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute," with Mike Buryk. The Ukrainian Weekly. March 31, 2022. (podcast)

Opinion: ‘15 new Chernobyls’: A survivor’s fears about Putin’s war.” Washington Post. March 2, 2022.  (interview)

"The best books on Ukraine and Russia recommended by Serhii Plokhy.” Five Books. (interview)

Ukraine Update: Assessing the Military Situation and What's Next.” Harvard Kennedy School. March 2, 2022. (panel)

No End to History: The Post-Soviet Space Thirty Years after the Fall of the USSR.” IWM. March 1, 2022. (panel)

"United Ukrainians ask for foreign aid to 'close the skies' over their country.” GBH. March 1, 2022. (interview)

‘From a historical perspective, Ukraine has already won,’ said Serhii Plokhii.” Local History. February 28, 2022. (interview article; in Ukrainian)

Serhii Plokhy on the historical roots of the 2022 Russian-Ukrainian war.  Phi Sci. February 24, 2022. (video interview)

Vladimir Putin’s Revisionist History of Russia and Ukraine,” by Isaac Chotiner. The New Yorker. February 23, 2022. (Q&A article)

Die UdSSR zerbrach an der Frage der ukrainischen Unabhängigkeit” [The USSR collapsed over the question of Ukrainian independence] by Felix Bohr and Katja Iken. Der Spiegel. February 22, 2022. (interview article)

"«Це політика не лише Путіна». Як пояснити нинішні стосунки України та Росії, – погляд історика Сергія Плохія," Іра Крицька and Борис Давиденко. Forbes UA. February 2, 2022. (written interview)

"Serhii Plokhy: it’s impossible for states to be 'both democratic and pro-Russian,'" by Ido Vock. The New Statesman. February 1, 2022. (interview-based article)

"From Stalin to Putin, Ukraine is still trying to break free from Moscow." NPR Morning Edition. January 31, 2022. (interview quotes; radio story/ transcript)

"What can the west do for the Ukrainian people? They can be united and say it’s not ok to annex territories, to bully smaller countries.” The Currency, January 29, 2022. (audio, subscription required)

"Starr Forum: The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict: A prologue to WWIII or another frozen conflict?" MIT Center for International Studies.  January 28, 2022. (panel discussion; video)

"The empire returns: Russia, Ukraine and the long shadow of the Soviet Union." Financial Times, January 27, 2022. (subscription required)

"Ce qui se passe maintenant en Ukraine est crucial et aura des conséquences pour les décennies à venir," Adrien Jaulmes. Le Figaro. January 21, 2022. English version: "What happens now in Ukraine is crucial and will have consequences for decades to come." News in 24. (interview; subscription required)

"The historical context behind the latest escalation in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict." Here & Now's Tonya Mosley speaks with Serhii Plokhii, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, for the historical context behind the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. December 7, 2021. (audio)

"Who Saw the Collapse of the USSR Coming?" by Clara Ferreira Marques. Bloomberg, December 24, 2022. (interview)

"The Return of History: The Post-Soviet Space Thirty Years after the Fall of the USSR." HURI (originally published in Spanish in Política exterior), November 30, 2021. (article)

"The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine's Past and Present." New Books Network with Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed. October 27, 2021. (podcast interview)

Emily Channell-Justice (TCUP Director)

War in Ukraine: Perspectives from Kyiv and Moscow. Robbins Library (Arlington, MA). April 11, 2022. (speaker; register for Zoom)

Russia’s War in Ukraine: What Everyone Should Know. Leominster Public Library. April 6, 2022. (speaker; register for Zoom)

Ukraine: A Road of Unjust Conflict. Carnegie Mellon University Institute for Politics and Strategy Policy Forum. April 5, 2022. (panelist; register for Zoom).

How Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky Is Redefining Leadership for a New World,” by David Sanders. Readers Digest. March 24, 2022. (quoted in article)

Let's Just Talk: Impact of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine, What You Need to Know. Show hosted at Northeastern University. March 14, 2022. (video)

Molotov Cocktails and Self-Organization in a Time of War.” Cultural Anthropology HotSpots. March 11, 2022. (article)

The Russian Invasion of UkraineICEUR Vienna. March 10, 2022. (video interview)

Look for the Helpers-but Remember that They’re Human.” Slavic Review. March 9, 2022. (article)

WBUR Town Hall: Understanding the Ukraine Crisis. March 8, 2022. (video)

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: A Teach-In Series. Oklahoma University Department of International and Areas Studies. March 3, 2022. (video)

War Displaces Ukrainians—Again.” Engelsberg Ideas. March 3, 2022. (article)

The Complicated Ukraine-Russia War, Explained in Simple Terms,” by David Sanders. Reader’s Digest. March 2, 2022. (quoted in article)

"Why Ukrainians Are Fighting and What They Are Fighting For," Background Briefing with Ian Masters. February 28, 2022. 
 
Putin says Russia, Ukraine share historical ‘unity’. Is he right?” by Niko Vorobyov. Al-Jazeera. February 25, 2022. (quoted in article)
 
Why you should pay attention to what’s happening in Ukraine,” by Anastasiya Bolton. KENS5. February 24, 2022. (quoted in article)
 
For Ukrainian-Americans, unity against Putin has solidified their bonds,” by Anastasia Tsioulcas. NPR. February 24, 2022. (quoted in article)
 
Richest Ukrainians With Billions To Lose Close Ranks As Putin Unleashes War,” by Giacomo Tognini. Forbes. February 24, 2022. (quoted in article)
 
Why Biden’s Russia Sanctions Are Too Little, Too Late For Ukraine,” by John Hyatt. Forbes. February 22, 2022. (quoted in article)

Putin’s antagonism toward Ukraine was never just about NATO - it’s about creating a new Russian empire,” with Jacob Lassin. The Conversation. February 22, 2022:

Putin launches invasion: What’s the endgame? FM4 Radio (Austrian Radio). February 22, 2022. (radio interview)

Biden makes an appeal to Russia for diplomacy, with Stephen Norris on Cincinnati Edition (WXVU). February 16, 2022. (radio interview)

How the escalating tension in Ukraine is resonating here in Boston, Radio Boston (WBUR). February 14, 2022. (radio interview)

Foreign policy implications behind Russia’s threat to invade Ukraine, Boston Public Radio (WGBH). February 7, 2022. (radio interview)

Why Israel is walking a tightrope on the Ukraine Crisis,” by Mohammad Salami. The New Arab. (quoted in article)

Military Exercises Feared to be Cover for Putin’s Secret Weapons Plan,” by Kenneth Rosen. The Daily Beast. February 11, 2022. (quoted in article)

"Niemądrze byłoby sądzić, że nic złego się nie zdarzy," by Katarzyna Rosicka. TVN24. Feburary 4, 2022. (written interview (subscription required) and video)

"Ukraine Pt. 1: A Young Country with an Old History," with Katherine Younger, research director, Ukraine in European Dialogue at the Institute for Human Sciences (Vienna). Host: Ray Suarez. World Affairs podcast. (audio interview)

Interview on Background Briefing with Ian Masters. General discussion of the conflict, historical explanations, etc. The interview is posted online at https://www.backgroundbriefing.org/.

Australian Broadcasting Company: US/Russia/NATO talks in Geneva, week of January 10. Recorded January 11, 2022. [MP3 available]

"Famine, subjugation and nuclear fallout: How Soviet experience helped sow resentment among Ukrainians toward Russia," co-authored with Jacob Lassin. The Conversation.  January 27, 2022. (article)

"Why Putin has such a hard time accepting Ukrainian sovereignty," co-authored with Jacob Lassin. The Conversation. December 21, 2021. (article)

Margarita Balmaceda (associate)

"Is the US headed for another war? We asked an expert in diplomacy, Putinism and Ukraine." (A chat with Dr. Margarita Balmaceda of Seton Hall's school of diplomacy and international relations). nj.com. January 26, 2022. (interview article)

Volodymyr Dibrova (preceptor of Ukrainian language)

"For centuries, the Ukrainian language was overshadowed by its Russian cousin. That’s changing," by Matt Pearce. The LA TImes. March 30, 2022. (quoted in article)

Markian Dobczansky (associate)

The 20th-Century History Behind Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” by Katya Cengel. Smithsonian Magazine. March 4, 2022. (quoted in article)

Michael Flier, Professor of Ukrainian Philology

"Is It Kyiv or Kiev? And Why the Pronunciation Changed," by Alina Dizik. The Wall Street Journal. March 20, 2022. (quoted in article)

 

“When English speakers [first] became aware of some of these places, the Muscovites were in charge and the English spellings were based on those,” says Michael Flier, professor of Ukrainian philology at Harvard University.

For Americans now trying to pronounce the Ukrainian “Kyiv,” it can be challenging. The first part sounds like the “i” sound in the word “kin,” says Dr. Flier. The stress is on the first part of the word, not the second. He says it’s pronounced KIH-yeev.

 

Halyna Hryn, Editor, Harvard Ukrainian Studies

Interview: Halyna Hryn interviewed for the New York Post on 2/22/2022: “Ukrainian New Yorkers brace for war, compare Putin to Hitler.”

Oleh Kotsyuba, Manager of Publications

Rumors Putin Has Cancer and is Crazy Allow Him a Nuclear Advantage; Interview on Background Briefing with Ian Masters. May 5,  2022. The interview is posted online at https://www.backgroundbriefing.org/2022/05/05/background-briefing-may-5-...

Ukrainians Stunned by Russia's Wide-Ranging Assault. NBC10 Boston. February 25, 2022. (interview article) 

The Ukrainian dream, and how Russian aggression helped solidify it. Wbr.org. February 24, 2022. (article)

Volodymyr Kulyk (associate)

"Experts from NATO countries disagree on how to approach Ukraine, " co-authored with Nadiia Koval, Mykola Riabchuk, Kateryna Zarembo and Marianna Fakhurdinova. The Washington Post, January 26, 2022. (article)

Olga Onuch

"A majority of Ukrainians support joining NATO. Does this matter?" with Javier Pérez Sandoval. The Washington Post, February 4, 2022.  (article with research data)

Susana Torres Prieto (fellow)

The Triumph of Misconception.” Insights, IE University. March 7, 2022. (article)

"This ancient monastery in Kyiv is at the heart of Putin’s spurious rationale for the war in Ukraine," by Julie Zigoris. Boston Globe. March 23, 2022. (quoted in article)

Christian Raffensperger (monograph author)

"VOICES: We have a duty to stand up to Putin, authoritarianism.Dayton Daily News, January 28, 2022.

Carol R. Saivetz (associate)

"Where things stand between the US and Russia, Sue O’Connell spoke with Carol R. Saivetz, a Senior Advisor for the Security Studies Program at MIT." NECN, January 11, 2022. (video interview)

Oxana Shevel (associate)

The 20th-Century History Behind Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” by Katya Cengel. Smithsonian Magazine. March 4, 2022. (quoted in article)

"Putin is a prisoner of his own delusions about Ukraine. They will be his undoing." LA Times. February 25, 2022. (op-ed)

George Soroka (associate)

"Ukraine and Russia: two countries whose memories of a ‘shared’ past could not be more different," co-authored with Félix Krawatzek. The Conversation, January 27, 2022.

Igor Torbakov, former fellow

Article: Igor Torbakov: Putin’s sick political imagination. Eurozine. (February 25, 2022). 

Article:  Igor Torbakov: The war is due to Putin's sick political imagination. Utrikesmagasinet -- journal of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. (February 25, 2022).

Ukraine at War

We are pausing our daily news roundup as we focus our energy on other initiatives to disseminate factual information and assist those affected by the war in Ukraine. 

February 27, 2022

Russian troops entered Kharkiv on Sunday and clashed with Ukrainian forces in the streets (CNN). Locals said there were enemy vehicles in numerous areas of the city, including downtown. Ukrainian forces were able to capture many Russian soldiers and saboteurs, as well as destroy cars and armored vehicles (Kyiv Independent). 

Battles continued throughout Kyiv oblast. Many explosions were reported near the center of Kyiv and air raid sirens sounded. Ukrainian forces shot down a cruise missile fired at Kyiv from the territory of Belarus, which Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s highest military commander, described as “yet another war crime” perpetrated by Russia and Belarus (Kyiv Independent). 

The Russian Navy captured two more Ukrainian civilian ships in the Black Sea, this time a tanker and a dry cargo ship. Fierce battles took place in and around Kherson. Police warned locals not to leave their towns, because Russian forces have opened fire at any and all civilian vehicles (Kyiv Independent). The General Staff of the Armed Forces also shared a video of a Russian convoy of trucks being destroyed from the air in Kherson oblast. They said that they did so using a Ukrainian, Turkish-made Bayraktar drone (Facebook). 

On Monday, Ukrainian and Russian delegations will meet at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border for talks. President Zelenskyy and other Western leaders have expressed their skepticism about Putin’s sincerity. Zelenskyy, however, announced that if there was even a small chance these talks could make the war stop, he had to try (CNN). 

US officials stated that Russian forces have continued to face “stiff resistance.” Their advances have slowed down in Northern Ukraine, while they have made a bit more progress in the South (CNN). 

President Putin announced that Russia’s deterrent forces - including nuclear weapons - would be placed on high alert. White House press secretary Jen Psaki called this Putin’s latest step in a pattern of unprovoked escalation and “manufactured threats” (CNN). 

Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia in the International Court of Justice and requested an urgent decision (Twitter). Earlier in the day, President Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal accused Russian forces of “terror” and committing “war crimes” by targetting civillians, including children (CNN).

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 400,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes since the full-scale invasion began. Wait times at the border can sometimes be longer than 60 hours (CNN). 

Even more countries have offered additional military aid to Ukraine. In a sudden policy shift, Germany has announced that it will deliver 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 stinger missiles to Ukraine. The U.S. also allocated $350 million in new military assistance. Australia has also agreed to give lethal weapons, and France will send fuel and defensive equipment. The U.S. will also send nearly $54 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine (CNN).

The EU and UK have officially closed their airspace to Russian planes, including “the private jets of oligarchs.” The EU also banned Russian state news outlets Russian Today and Sputnik (CNN). 

Protests and prayer vigils have broken out across the world in support of Ukraine and asking leaders to stop Russia’s invasion.The Czech Republic has joined Poland and Sweden in refusing to play against Russia in qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, even at a neutral venue (CNN). England has also said they will not play Russia in any international football matches “for the foreseeable future” (Twitter). 

In a stunning move, European Commission President Usula von der Leyen said that the European Union wants Ukraine to join its bloc. She stated that “there are so many topics where we work very closely together and indeed over time, they belong to us. They are one of us and we want them in” (CNN). 

February 26, 2022

Russia’s advance on Ukraine slowed on Saturday, pausing for a short time and then resuming from all directions. While Russia claimed this was a pause for negotiations, a NATO official argued that it is because the Russians are experiencing unanticipated problems, such as a lack of diesel and problems with morale among troops (CNN). Ukrainian forces have caused Russia to experience heavy losses in terms of personnel, armor, and aircraft (Kyiv Independent). 

Two massive explosions struck near Vasylkiv, about 18 miles south of Kyiv. Fuel tanks were ignited and the fire raged at Vasylkiv Air Base (CNN). Explosions were detected in Kyiv, from the direction of Obolon, Bucha, and Hostomel (Kyiv Independent). 

Fighting continues throughout the country. Heavy shelling and small arms fire took place in and around Mykolaiv in the South (CNN). Kharkiv remains under the control of Ukrainian forces but fighting and shelling in the area remains intense. Russian forces attacked a residential building in Kharkiv with unknown casualties (Kyiv Independent). 

The US offered Ukrainian President Zelenskyy the chance to evacuate the country. He rejected this offer, saying “I need ammunition, not a ride.” US officials maintain that Zelenskyy is the “prime target for Russian aggression (CNN),” which echoes previous statements that Russia’s goal is to “behead the Ukrainian government” and install a Russian puppet-regime in its place. 

Zelenskyy has asked Ukrainians once more to resist the invasion, and called on Ukrainians abroad to return home and defend their country. He invited international volunteers as well, and stated that “we will give you weapons” (CNN). 

Ukrainian volunteers were seen on video attempting to block Russian tanks using their bodies, bicycles, and other materials (CNN). 

Secretary of State Blinken authorized $350 million of additional military assistance to Ukraine. This will include “anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems,” according to another US official. Germany, as well as other countries, announced that it would deliver anti-tank weapons and missiles to Ukraine as well (CNN). 

An EU official also “strongly condemned” attacks on civilian infrastructure by the Russian military. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal accused Russia of committing war crimes and stated that they would have to face a “military tribunal” (CNN). 

The international hacking group Anonymous took credit for the hacking of Russian government sites, including those of the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (CNN). Mykhailo Fedorov called for an “IT army” to aid Ukraine on “the cyber front” (Twitter). 

Numerous countries have banned Russian airlines from their airspace, including Germany, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and others. YouTube blocked RT in Ukraine and banned it from monetizing its content on the platform worldwide. Meta – the rebranded name of Facebook – did the same (CNN). 

In a stunning move, the White House and EU announced the expulsion of certain Russian banks from SWIFT (CNN). They also said they would “prevent the Russian Central Bank” from using its international reserves to mitigate Western sanctions. 

Nations around the world have illuminated their national landmarks in the colors of the Ukrainian flag (CNN). The national teams of Poland and Sweden have refused to play Russia in next month’s 2022 World Cup qualifier as well (AP). 

February 25, 2022

Russian forces continued their invasion of Ukraine today. Shelling and shooting took place in many areas of the country, with ground forces advancing in numerous places. But according to US officials, Russian forces may be facing more resistance than they were expecting (Reuters). 

Heavy fighting took place around Kyiv throughout the day, particularly in the directions of Bucha, Hostomel, and Irpin (Kyiv Independent). Loud explosions were reported in the Obolon and Troeyshchyna areas of Kyiv, as well as near Kyiv’s Heat Power Plant-6 (Kyiv Independent). As Russian forces entered Obolon, the Defense Ministry of Ukraine urged residents to make Molotov cocktails (MoD). 

Witnesses also reported shooting near the government quarter in central Kyiv (Kyiv Independent). US and Ukrainian officials maintain that Russian forces likely plan to encircle the capital and remove President Zelensky, who remains in Kyiv (Ukrainska Pravda). 

Russian forces refused to let Red Cross workers into the village of Schastia in Luhansk oblast, which was mostly destroyed after a day of constant fighting (Luhansk Gov. Facebook). 

Kharkiv was also shelled from many directions, forcing residents to stay in makeshift bomb shelters and metro tunnels (Kyiv Independent). This includes shelling in residential areas (Kyiv Independent). As of the evening, Russian forces were approaching the city from the border (Kyiv Independent). 

Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed near Kherson in the South, as the invaders tried to pass through and continue toward Mykolaiv (Ukrainska Pravda). 
The US, Canada, EU, and UK introduced new sanctions on Russia today, including on Putin himself (CNN). Sanctions have also targeted other Russian officials, elites, and their families (CNN). 

February 24, 2022

Early in the morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a televised address to initiate a “special military operation” to "protect" the people of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. The goal of this operation would be to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine” and prosecute those who committed “bloody crimes” against civilians, including against Russian citizens (Kremlin.ru). He urged the Ukrainian military to surrender their arms and return home. 

As the speech concluded, Ukrainians were awoken by explosions in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other cities (Kyiv Independent). Kyiv was hit with a series of blasts. Boryspil, its primary international airport, was struck with multiple missiles (CNN). Other airports were targeted in Kharkiv, Ozerne, Kulbakino, Chuhuiv, Kramatorsk and Chornobaivka (CNN). The other primary targets appeared to be military bases, but there was significant damage in numerous cities and oblasts. 

President Zelensky posted a brief speech on social media, informing the public that he had spoken with US President Joe Biden and that the US had begun rallying international support. Zelensky declared martial law and said he would return with more information later. As the Russian invasion continued across Ukraine, air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv, and later in Lviv, Lutsk, and Chernivtsi (Kyiv Independent). 

In the morning, Zelensky gave a televised speech saying that Russia was attacking Ukraine from three directions. He declared that Russia is on a “path of evil” and that it had struck in a “cunning way,” similar to Hitler in WWII (CNN). 

Russian forces began heavily shelling Hostomel, which has an international cargo airport and testing facility near Kyiv (Kyiv Independent). Several hours later, the airport at Hostomel was attacked by about 34 Russian helicopters. Ukrainian forces were able to shoot down three of them (Kyiv Independent). By the evening of February 24, Ukrainian forces were able to recapture the airport. 

Russian forces fired heavily on civilian areas in Mariupol using Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems (Kyiv Independent). Most of the injuries were not life-threatening but several people were killed (Kyiv Independent). The airport was damaged in the process. 

Clashes continued in Shchastya in Luhansk Oblast and Sumy (Kyiv Independent). Later, Ukrainian forces used Javelin anti-tank missiles provided by the US to destroy 15 Russian tanks in Sumy (Kyiv Independent). The head of the Sumy government reported that the city of Konotop was surrounded by Russian forces, and multiple cities in the oblast were under attack (Kyiv Independent). The Russian military later established checkpoints along the Kyiv-Sumy highway and began checking documents (Kyiv Independent). 

Russian forces advanced into the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone from Belarus and clashes began near the reactor (Kyiv Independent). Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Minister, warned that shelling may disturb radioactive material currently underground (Kyiv Independent). Zelensky called Russian efforts to capture the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant “a declaration of war against all of Europe” (Kyiv Independent). Ukrainian media later reported that Russian forces had successfully captured the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and taken its staff as hostages (Kyiv Independent). 

Zelensky reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had halted Russia’s advances (Kyiv Independent). The Russian military continued to push through Kherson under air cover (Kyiv Independent). They captured the city of Henichevsk and the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on their way (Kyiv Independent). The Ukrainian military conducted an organized defense in Southern Ukraine, with numerous battles in Kherson oblast. 

Overnight, the Ukrainian Navy was reportedly engaged in a battle on the Black Sea defending Odesa and Chornomorsk. Combat and defenses continued in Dovzhanka, Kharkiv, and Okhtyrka (Kyiv Independent). 

The US stated that they believed Russia is trying to “behead” the Zelensky administration and install a puppet-regime in its place (Kyiv Independent). In the early hours of the morning, a large military force was moving towards Kyiv and several explosions were reported in the area (Kyiv Independent). 

General analysis

"Putin Experts weigh in" (incl. Fiona Hill), Politico, January 26, 2022.

How to think about war in Ukraine.” Timothy Snyder. January 18, 2022.

“Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine is clearly linked to Europe and the United States, but this time perhaps in a different way.  Rather than invading without warning, Russia has ostentatiously prepared for an invasion, and then warned the West that whatever happens is all their fault.  Russia has elbowed the Europeans aside, insisting on speaking directly with the Americans.” 

Ukraine Crisis: Putin the gambler may have gone too far to back down.” Timothy Ash, Atlantic Council. January 23, 2022. 

“If the Russian leader does not proceed with some form of military action in the weeks ahead, his bluff will have been called. Critics will inevitably say that while he was able to move thousands of troops up to the border and make threats, he lacked the gumption to pull the trigger. He had the chance to take Ukraine and he bottled it, they will argue. As a result, any future attempt to threaten a major escalation may not be taken seriously.

"By backing away from a military escalation, Putin would risk being accused of failing to secure serious concessions on Ukraine or from NATO. He would be seen as a man who talks a lot and threatens but, when faced with a tough response from the other side, eventually backs down.”

Stop asking what Putin wants and start asking what Ukrainians want.” Mychailo Wynnyckyj, Atlantic Council. January 22, 2022. 

“Ukrainians understand that Russian aggression is a long-term phenomenon. The current crisis is not about NATO expansion, as Ukraine’s membership of the alliance is not on the agenda and NATO activity in Ukraine remains extremely limited. In reality, the NATO issue is a smokescreen designed by the Kremlin to bring the US to the negotiating table and hopefully to induce Washington to accept Russian control over Ukraine. It is an attempt to legitimize Putin’s dream of recreating the Russian Empire. At this point it looks as though the US, UK and Canada are not falling for the ruse, although the same cannot be said for Germany and France.”

"War With Russia Has Pushed Ukrainians Toward The West." Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Jean Yi, with data from Olga Onuch, Timofiy Brik, and Olexiy Haran. Presents evidence of an increasingly positive perception of NATO in Ukraine. FiveThirtyEight. January 28, 2022.

Military analysis

Putin’s wager in Russia’s standoff with the West.” Michael Kofman, War on the Rocks. January 24, 2022. 

“Prediction is always a fraught business, but it seems plausible that Russian forces would seize Ukraine’s eastern regions, as well as the southern port city of Odessa, and encircle Kyiv. The Russian goal would be regime change, perhaps via constitutional reform, and a settlement that would secure Russian influence over Ukraine. From a position of leverage, Russia would try to attain a U.S. commitment to give it a free hand in this part of eastern Europe. With Belarus firmly in Russia’s orbit, Moscow is eyeing using force to change Ukraine’s strategic orientation in an effort to create its own cordon against Western influence. An expanded invasion of Ukraine may not herald a prolonged occupation, but Russia appears prepared for that contingency. Russian force posture can enable a range of choices, but it is difficult to see how Moscow accomplishes any lasting political gains without having to resort to maximalist options.”

How likely is large-scale war in Ukraine?” Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Alina Frolova, Oleksiy Pavliuchyk (Center for Defense Strategies), Kyiv Independent. January 24, 2022.

“In short, our conclusions are the following:

  • A full-scale invasion capturing most or all of Ukraine in the near future seems unlikely.
  • There are other threatening scenarios that may materialize.
  • Ukraine must remain calm and actively prepare for the defense of the country in any case."

2014 vs. 2022 Ukraine’s improved but still longshot odds of withstanding a full-fledged Russian invasion.” Meduza, January 18, 2022. 

What is the status of diplomatic negotiations?

"US, Russia agree to continue talks even as troop buildup continues." Cindy Saine, Voice of America. January 21, 2022.

Talks between US Secretary of State (Anthony Blinken) and Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei Lavrov): "Ukraine tension: US and Russia hold 'frank' talks." (BBC) January 21, 2022.

Statements from Ukrainian authorities

After downplaying the threat of a full-scale invasion, Zelensky suggested Kharkiv may be occupied by Russian forces:

Ukraine urges calm, saying a Russian invasion is not imminent.” Yuras Karmanau, LA Times. January 25, 2022.

“A Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll found that about 48% of Ukrainians believe an invasion in the coming months to be a real threat. But with many aware of the possibility that recent moves could also be part of information warfare, 39% said they don’t see it happening.”

What does Russia want?

Vladimir Putin and his administration have asked for security guarantees from NATO, the European Union, and the United States. These include a promise from NATO representatives that they will not extend membership to Ukraine, now or in the future. Both the United States and NATO have refused to close the door on Ukraine’s potential NATO membership.

Russian Hybrid Threats Report.  Atlantic Council.

What is the US and Europe's response?

Much of the discussion about western responses to Kremlin aggression is focused on sanctions and other economic responses. The United States is attempting to ban exports to Russia of technology to be used in “strategic sectors like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, defense, and aerospace if Russia invades Ukraine.” Russian business elites–unlikely to speak on the record against Putin–know that they face major economic consequences if further sanctions are put into place. But US leaders are struggling to find bipartisan support for sanctions because of disagreement over whether sanctions should be in response to a Russian invasion or if they should be preemptive. The US Treasury expanded its sanctions list against pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politicians. But what are the sanctions that could be most effective, and how would these sanctions influence the global economy?

"Experts react: Six options for Europe as it searches for a response to Russian aggression." Atlantic Council. January 22, 2022.

NATO Black Sea Defense Strategy: "Countering the growing Russian naval threat in the Black Sea region." Michael John Williams, Atlantic Council. January 25, 2022.

"If Russia boosts its aggression against Ukraine, here’s what NATO could do." Michael John Williams, Atlantic Council. January 25, 2022.

What is the role of cyber and hybrid warfare?

On January 14, Ukraine experienced a cyberattack on government websites. Ukrainian leaders claimed a hacker group linked to Belarusian intelligence was behind the attack. Belarus-based groups may be involved in cyberattacks in Ukraine on behalf of Russia.

What was the plot to overthrow the Ukrainian government?

On January 22, the British government released a statement accusing the Kremlin of a plot to install a Russia-friendly leadership in Ukraine. 

Who is Murayev?” Potential leader of the coup exposed." Sergiy Slipchenko, Kyiv Independent. January 23, 2022. 

Murayev himself dismisses the allegations: "Who is Murayev?" Meduza, January 24, 2022

What’s the role of Belarus?

Russian troops arrived in Belarus the week of January 18, in order to participate in joint military drills, called “Allied Resolve–2022.” The drills are meant to take place through the middle of February. The United States believes these exercises may be a cover for an invasion via its northern border. 

Profiles of "everyday Ukrainians" in wartime

In Kyiv, we remain fearless. But war is becoming a backdrop to everyday life.” Nataliya Gumenyuk in The Guardian. February 18, 2022. 

On the Brink of War With Russia, Ukrainians Are Resigned and Prepared.” James Marson, Wall Street Journal. January 24, 2022. 

Ukraine-Russia tensions: Inside the eerie village on the frontline of separatist conflict.” Stuart Ramsay, Sky News. January 19, 2022. 

Fear and defiance on Ukraine’s frontline: ‘We don’t like dictators here.’” Luke Harding, The Guardian. January 19, 2022. 
 
‘We’ll fight to the end.’ Ukraine defiant in face of Vladimir Putin’s phoney war.” Luke Harding, The Guardian. January 15, 2022. 

TCUP Briefs

TCUP Brief 1: A Closer Look at IDP and Refugee Estimates

This Brief presents two major challenges to quantifying Ukraine's humanitarian crisis that experts presented at the ASN event, "Russian Invasion and Internal Displacement: Emerging IDP issues within Ukraine" (March 17, 2022).

Speakers: Cynthia Buckley (U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA), Volodymyr Dubovyk (Mechnikov National U, Ukraine), Oksana Mikheieva (Catholic U, Ukraine). Moderated by Oxana Shevel (Tufts U, USA).

TCUP Brief 2: The Roots of Russia's Assault on Ukraine

In this Brief, Emily Channell-Justice looks back at Paul D'Anieri's 2019 publication, Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War, which traces the development of Ukraine, Russia, and their relationship since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia's claims of NATO expansion as a security threat, its view of its place as a global power, as well as the divergence of politics in Ukraine and Russia (Ukraine moving toward democracy and the EU; Russia moving to autocracy) began in 1991, sparked the 2014 war, and fueled the full-scale invasion of 2021.

TCUP Brief 3: Russia's War Crimes in Ukraine

This Brief examines reports of war crimes committed during Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and assault on Ukrainian cities. What constitutes a war crime? If war crimes exist, can they be prosecuted? Will Putin and Russian soldiers be held responsible? TCUP Briefs will return to this topic as the facts come to light in besieged cities like Bucha and Mariupol.

 

Archived News, Social Media, Websites

Russia's War on Ukraine archive

Compiled by HURI, this collection seeks to document Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 which resulted in a full-scale war after eight years of military conflict between Russian and Ukraine. Content includes news portals, organizational websites, and social media related to the war.

Internally Displaced Persons

At least 1.5 million people from Donetsk and Luhansk are displaced in Ukraine since 2014, illustrating the human impact this eight-year crisis has already brought upon Ukraine.

TCUP Reports

Our IDP TCUP Report series is focused on the occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with special attention to the impact of Ukrainian and Russian policies on the populations displaced from those territories and those still living there. With an absence of official policy toward internally displaced populations in Ukraine, these reports address the topic of displacement from several angles. 

Displacement, Reintegration and Reconciliation in Ukraine Part I: An Introduction The Governance of Social Support for Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine: Low State Capacity, Citizenship Rights Capture, or Both? by Martina Urbinati, University of Bologna
Passportization, Diminished Citizenship Rights, and the Donbas Vote in Russia’s 2021 Duma Elections by Fabian Burkhardt, Maryna Rabinovych, Cindy Wittke, Elia Bescotti  

MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine

MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine includes an interactive webmap with data on Donbas, Crimea, and IDPs that shows the myriad ways the Donbas is interconnected with the rest of Ukraine. In the light of the escalating Russian aggression, Donbas is likely to remain a battleground—but the threat and devastation of war are nothing new.

Since the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine in February 2014, approximately 1.8 million people from Crimea and the Donbas fled to other regions of Ukraine, and over one million to Russia or to other neighboring countries. At present, state and international agencies register close to 1.5 million IDPs and 50,000 refugees.

Between 20,000 and 50,000 people left the Crimean Peninsula and some 2.4 million inhabitants of Crimea found themselves behind the new dividing line. The main reason for leaving the peninsula was the Russian state persecutions of Crimean Tatars (especially the more observant Muslims) and people with pro-Ukraine views. There were also other reasons - among them, attachment to the Ukrainian state and unwillingness to live on unrecognized territory or in the Russian state. The situation of Crimean Tatars differed from that of other IDPs. If the majority of IDPs who moved to Ukraine or Russia could claim that they had gone to their land of origin or homeland, Crimean Tatars, on the contrary, left their homeland, which they had just recently reacquired.

Although religious intolerance, political and physical persecutions were no less important push factors for the inhabitants of the Donbas, the major cause for mass escape from the region were military destructions. Two quasi-state entities, ‘DPR’ (Donetsk Peoples Republic) and ‘LPR’ (Luhansk Peoples Republic), covered a third of the Donbas territory, which was home to more than half of its pre-war population of roughly 6.5 million people. Altogether, some 3 – 3.5 million inhabitants of the Donbas found themselves on temporarily occupied territories. Most moved on their own and had to rely on their own resources or were helped by local activists from the receiving communities. This to a great extent defined the pattern of the IDP resettlement.  

As one can see from the map, there are visible regional disproportions in the numbers of IDPs resettled within Ukraine. Areas of the Donbas controlled by the Ukrainian government account for over 55% of all registered IDPs; the two neighboring regions (oblasti) of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia host another 18–20% and the capital city Kyiv, 8–10%. The majority of IDPs are concentrated in big cities. There are many reasons that explain such disproportion  – among them scarce resources, limited experience of moving throughout Ukraine's regions, the Ukrainian economy and job market structure, the need to stay close to their home (to care for family members who could not move, to look over property, possibility to commute across the contact line), urban and professional identities, language abilities, or cross-regional stereotypes.    
Map depicting location of IDPs in Ukraine

 

Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2 is the Russian-built pipeline in the Baltic Sea that will transport natural gas directly from Russia to Germany. The pipeline will remove the need for Ukrainian transit of Russian natural gas, which has long been a source of leverage for Ukraine in its uneven relationship with Russia.

Our Nord Stream 2 TCUP Report series addresses the mechanisms through which Nord Stream 2 is problematic for Ukrainian national security and how it may still be stopped through legal and political means. 

Don't Cross the Streams: Why the Ghost of Putin’s Pipeline Continues to Haunt Transatlantic Security Benjamin Schmitt,  Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard University; Former European Energy Security Advisor, U.S. Department of State Sanctions, Snapbacks, and Solutions by Alan Riley, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
The End of Nord Stream 2: Germany, the United States, and EU Law  

Videos

The Impact of Russia’s 2020 Energy Policy on Ukraine: National Security Perspectives from Both Sides of the Atlantic with Hanna Hopko, Michael Carpenter, Alina Polyakova, Alan Riley, Benjamin L. Schmitt (June 2, 2020)

Historical Background and General Information

The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present

Serhii Plokhy, 2021

Cover of Plokhy bookThe Frontline addresses key events in Ukrainian history, including Ukraine’s complex relations with Russia and the West, the burden of tragedies such as the Holodomor and World War II, the impact of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and Ukraine’s contribution to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Juxtaposing Ukraine’s history to the contemporary politics of memory, this volume provides a multidimensional image of a country that continues to make headlines around the world. The essays collected here reveal the roots of the ongoing political, cultural, and military conflict in Ukraine, the largest country in Europe.

Chapters available online (open access):

Watch: "The Frontline: A Conversation on Ukraine's Past and Present" with Serhii Plokhy and Oleh Kotsyuba.

Teaching and Studying Ukraine: List of Resources

At the start of the COVID pandemic, HURI compiled this list of online resources that may be useful to those studying and teaching Ukraine. Although it extends beyond the current crisis, it may be of interest to those who want to learn more about Ukraine in general or identify core sources for ongoing information.

FAQs

Are Russians and Ukrainians one and the same people?

Russians and Ukrainians are not the same people. The territories that make up modern-day Russia and Ukraine have been contested throughout history, so in the past, parts of Ukraine were part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Other parts of Ukraine were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Poland, among others. During the Russian imperial and Soviet periods, policies from Moscow pushed the Russian language and culture in Ukraine, resulting in a largely bilingual country in which nearly everyone in Ukraine speaks both Ukrainian and Russian. Ukraine was tightly connected to the Russian cultural, economic, and political spheres when it was part of the Soviet Union, but the Ukrainian language, cultural, and political structures always existed in spite of Soviet efforts to repress them. When Ukraine became independent in 1991, everyone living on the territory of what is now Ukraine became a citizen of the new country (this is why Ukraine is known as a civic nation instead of an ethnic one). This included a large number of people who came from Russian ethnic backgrounds, especially living in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, as well as Russian speakers living across the country. 

See also: Timothy Snyder's overview of Ukraine's history.

Relevant Sources:

Plokhy, Serhii. “Russia and Ukraine: Did They Reunite in 1654,” in The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2021). (Open access online)

Plokhy, Serhii. “The Russian Question,” in The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2021). (Open access online)

Ševčenko, Ihor. Ukraine between East and West: Essays on Cultural History to the Early Eighteenth Century (2nd, revised ed.) (Toronto: CIUS Press, 2009).

"Ukraine w/ Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon (#221)." Interview on The Road to Now  with host Benjamin Sawyer. (Historian Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon joins Ben to talk about the key historical events that have shaped Ukraine and its place in the world today.) January 31, 2022.

Is Ukraine divided between East and West?

What is the role of regionalism in Ukrainian politics? Can the conflict be boiled down to antagonism between an eastern part of the country that is pro-Russia and a western part that is pro-West?

Ukraine is often viewed as a dualistic country, divided down the middle by the Dnipro river. The western part of the country is often associated with the Ukrainian language and culture, and because of this, it is often considered the heart of its nationalist movement. The eastern part of Ukraine has historically been more Russian-speaking, and its industry-based economy has been entwined with Russia. While these features are not untrue, in reality, regionalism is not definitive in predicting people’s attitudes toward Russia, Europe, and Ukraine’s future. It’s important to remember that every oblast (region) in Ukraine voted for independence in 1991, including Crimea. 

Much of the current perception about eastern regions of Ukraine, including the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk that are occupied by separatists and Russian forces, is that they are pro-Russia and wish to be united with modern-day Russia. In the early post-independence period, these regions were the sites of the consolidation of power by oligarchs profiting from the privatization of Soviet industries–people like future president Viktor Yanukovych–who did see Ukraine’s future as integrated with Russia. However, the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests changed the role of people like Yanukovych. Protesters in Kyiv demanded the president’s resignation and, in February 2014, rose up against him and his Party of Regions, ultimately removing them from power. Importantly, pro-Euromaidan protests took place across Ukraine, including all over the eastern regions of the country and in Crimea. 

Can’t Ukraine be a neutral country and not join NATO?

Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for the protection of its territorial sovereignty in the Budapest Memorandum.

But in 2014, Russian troops occupied the peninsula of Crimea, held an illegal referendum, and claimed the territory for the Russian Federation. The muted international response to this clear violation of sovereignty helped motivate separatist groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions—with Russian support—to declare secession from Ukraine, presumably with the hopes that a similar annexation and referendum would take place. Instead, this prompted a war that continues to this day—separatist paramilitaries are backed by Russian troops, equipment, and funding, fighting against an increasingly well-armed and experienced Ukrainian army. 

Ukrainian leaders (and many Ukrainian citizens) see membership in NATO as a way to protect their country’s sovereignty, continue building its democracy, and avoid another violation like the annexation of Crimea. With an aggressive, authoritarian neighbor to Ukraine’s east, and with these recurring threats of a new invasion, Ukraine does not have the choice of neutrality. Leaders have made clear that they do not want Ukraine to be subjected to Russian interference and dominance in any sphere, so they hope that entering into NATO’s protective sphere–either now or in the future–can counterbalance Russian threats.

Related Sources:

Ukraine got a signed commitment in 1994 to ensure its security – but can the US and allies stop Putin’s aggression now?” Lee Feinstein and Mariana Budjeryn. The Conversation, January 21, 2022.

"Ukraine Gave Up a Giant Nuclear Arsenal 30 Years Ago. Today There Are Regrets." William J. Broad. The New York Times, February 5, 2022. Includes quotes from Mariana Budjeryn (Harvard) and Steven Pifer (former Ambassador, now Stanford)

Past Events on the Russia-Ukraine War

Upcoming Events

Artur, Kherson. April 30

On the way home

Part 1

During the fourth week of the occupation in Kherson, one of my few dreams came true, which, fortunately, was still possible in this dense atmosphere of horror, fear and simultaneous unity in the once quiet southern city.

The dream would have been prosaic in calmer circumstances, but in the occupation, its content seemed either a continuous mockery or a desirable dream of returning to my normal life. I dreamt that I was late for an important flight to Berlin. There was too much hustle and bustle around. It seemed like the road to Boryspil was one continuous obstacle that could not be overcome. I finally got to my destination. But as soon as I crossed the threshold, I immediately felt that I began to stray from the rhythm of movement. And behind me somewhere in the nothingness floated the whole city, which was moving. I decided to unpack my suitcase, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t moving along with it. In despair, I looked in all directions.

When I woke up, I first felt an unprecedented inspiration. A couple of hours later, I began to feverishly search in the Kherson chat called "how to leave" for the contacts of people who would take me and preferably several more women and children through the orcs’ checkpoints in Kherson oblast without demanding all the money in the world as a payment.

It is worth noting that on February 25, I moved from my apartment – where I had been trapped by panic attacks and claustrophobia since the beginning of the war – to my aunt's apartment downstairs, where I was less worried. And my conscious loneliness, which used to be a significant plus, has become one of the huge disadvantages for my psyche since February 24. When you are left alone with your thoughts in an empty room, and just a few of kilometers away from you, the grad missiles are fucking everyone up, and THEY are walking through the streets of your city as if it were their home, some assholes from Pskov and Tuva, it's hard not to go crazy. Although it is possible.

But it was in my aunt's apartment, even sometimes enjoying the excessive noise of her pets, that I began to have the idea to run away from Kherson, at any cost, because there was nothing to lose. More precisely, I wanted to leave as soon as there was at least a minimal opportunity for a green corridor. However, I understood perfectly well that even if there is an official green corridor – it still does not exist, by the way – there is no guarantee that this convoy of cars with people will not be shot at close range. On February 25, the railway station in Kherson was closed, all police and patrols disappeared from the city, and even an attempt to leave in the first days of the war, even before the dense enemy occupation of the city, seemed a savage and perverted suicide. However, staying in the city, where there were journalists, activists and anti-terrorist operation veterans, where I went to the basement almost every day, was not the best decision.

Part 2 

For myself, I decided that I needed to make three attempts – no less, but no more. There was an inner intuitive feeling that one of these planned attempts would be successful.

My first evacuation attempt was on March 25. It failed for a number of reasons. I only had the phone number of drivers who took people exclusively from the oblast, but not from the city.  I still at that time had little idea of what to pack, and what is not worth it at all. Also I bought a button Nokia, which is really the best opportunity to keep all valuable contacts and communication, because to carry a work tablet through Russian checkpoints, which after the New Year needed urgent repairs, the idea, to put it mildly, was stupid. However, I understood one thing: you need to take a few personal belongings, but keep bank cards and documents out of reach as much as possible, such as a white ticket and your passport.

Attempt number two was on April 7, and my aunt and I already had many more necessary contacts to be able to go to Mykolaiv and Odesa. Beginning April 5, the main Kherson shopping center Fabryka (Factory), burned and was looted. Columns of cars trying to leave started to form and there were queues of people searching for the chance to sit down with someone –  sometimes for free, but often for money, and sometimes considerable money. 

Getting up wildly early – at 4 am – I packed up again, finally had breakfast (who knows, maybe this was my last breakfast?!) and for half an hour, starting at 5:45, I tried to call a taxi to the column assembly point at the Factory. Only at about 6:20 a taxi pulled up to the school gates near my house, and ten minutes later I panicked and begged all the cars that were quickly leaving me to take me in. They didn't want to take me in for 15 minutes for free or for money, until one young couple, Olya and Pasha, finally agreed, and they agreed to take me for free – good people. 

We were moving in the direction of the city, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw charred skeletons of cars (no people inside), and destroyed orc equipment. There was a general, ominous silence as we passed the first checkpoint, the second, the third... Olya and Pasha, turning on a Beatles CD in their red car (which really sticks out), promptly cleaned their gadgets of any signs of dangerous information, quarreling with each other in a cute way in the process.  Near the checkpoint on the bridge it became clear that something was wrong today, and two minutes later – it was 9:30 am – the reason became clear: the occupiers said that the bridge was mined, you cannot go on, and a couple of cars were shot – people said this, but it was not proved in a couple of days – and Olya and Pasha, against the wishes of others in the column, returned back to Kherson, as well as several dozen cars. I was not disappointed with the failure, but for some reason I decided that I should make the third attempt only on April 14 or 15, not even assuming that on April 14, I would be in Lviv in a rented apartment in the heart of the city, which my company was able to organize. My company temporarily relocated to Slovakia from Kyiv.

Part 3

On April 8, my aunt received a call from one of the coordinators who was evacuating from Kherson. His name was Sergei. After clarifying who should be taken – a subtle boy of 31 – Sergei said that there is still a free seat with one of his drivers. The time of arrival of the car was 5:10 am. The meeting place was near the restaurant “Alexander Shants.” The price would be 3000 hryvnias. They would take me to Bashtanka, from where the next driver would pick me up and take me to the Odesa railway station.

I did not sleep before the trip. In a fit of total paranoia, I cleaned all my two bags of any suspicious items, and as a result did not take with me a microSD flash drive or a Madeira card in memory of the November trip to the archipelago, or a couple of bright vintage branded items such as light spring a jacket from Versace, which I bought for myself in my thirties. I cautiously tore off a suspicious metal badge from my spring jacket and hid some money in a small hole in my jacket. I fell asleep for three hours.

Part 4

The morning of April 9 seemed foggy and somewhat dark and cold. At the appointed hour, I went to the meeting place with the driver, and he approached me with amazing accuracy and punctuality at exactly 5:10 am, saying that it was better to sit next to him. We went to get the other passengers. It was a girl with a young daughter, her sister and their mutual friend. They did not give us their names. Not only I had acute paranoia. 

It is worth noting that at night, in the Telegram channels covering the evacuation, there was a panic attack: the Russians are preparing a provocation – they will shell the columns of cars leaving the city, which they would then present in their media as a crime of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. But the desire to leave the city in the occupation was stronger than the fear of being burned alive by grad missiles. It is not scary to die, because in the occupation, you are already dead and deprived of any of your subjectivity.

And more than two and a half hours later, an old but well-preserved car took us on rural roads, and the fog created a thick, nauseating blanket all around. Later we saw burnt civilian cars without dead people inside, and military equipment of the fucking occupiers, and shells on fields and roads…

The most difficult and disgusting checkpoint started in Novooleksiivka. There were Kadyrovtsy who were dressed in dirty uniforms, spoke bad Russian, and when they touched my passport and phone I became physically sick. I didn't give a damn about it, of course.

The next tough checkpoint was the DNR zombies, whose leader spoke Ukrainian well and asked the whole column why we were going. Soon here – that is, Kherson and the region – will be fine. Apparently, they started saying this in Kherson and Nova Kakhovka, from the moment the occupiers entered the cities. After that it was necessary to pass the mined bridge over the river Inhulets, realizing that either the bridge and the car would fall into water, or there would be an explosion. But we passed.

At 10:30am, we were already near Snihurivka. I had never been there before, so my gaze rested on the wonderfully neat lawns, the clean streets, and the few passersby with bicycles. There was such a contrast with the explosion-proof balconies of high-rise buildings and Russian scum checkpoints in this cozy residential area. The car checks were faster than at previous checkpoints and the orcs were very polite. I didn't even have to undress to show that there were no tattoos on my body with Nazi symbols.

At 11:00am, we saw the first checkpoint of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. 

The sun was already shining above us, warming as like never before. There was no fog. 

And one of the girls in the car symbolically turned on Max Barsky's song "Fogs" on her phone. 

Vira, Kyiv. Son died in Mariupol. April 28

On February 24, 2022, we woke up at dawn. A full-scale invasion had begun. For a week before that, there had been reports that the war was about to begin. We did not believe it was possible. And so it started... 

At 5am in Kyiv, there were unprecedented traffic jams. My husband went to refuel the car. There was a huge queue. Everyone was leaving the city. Our friends called and said that they won’t let me come to Boryspil. Tariffs for taxis were five times higher than usual. There was incredible tension in the air.

Hasty packing, terrible fuss, anxiety. Martial law. Friends call and tell me to leave. Where can I go when my son has been in the war in the east of the country for seven years? 

We decided not to leave, but our suitcases were packed. It started to rumble, very loud, until the ground shook. My dear son is in Mariupol. I was terrified for him. He already wanted to leave the army, to start a new peaceful life. It is unbelievable that this is a war – some terrible joke. 

We didn’t sleep. Planes flew loudly, and something rumbled so hard that the windows shook. During the day, we searched for a bomb shelter or the nearest basement so that we could get there quickly. Many people left. Every step could be heard in the house. 

They decided to gather the residents to find out who stayed, and they organized men to guard the entrance during the night. My dear son periodically texted me from Mariupol that the orcs were advancing, but they were defending the city well – Mariupol was under reliable control of our military. “Mom, don't worry about me, we're holding on, we won't let the enemy into the city, everything will be fine!”

My niece lives in Mariupol with her two children, boys aged 9 and 10. She says there was still food, and their phones and power banks were charged.

Then the connection was lost, there was no word for several days. 

Eternity... “The subscriber cannot be reached,” says the pre-recorded message from the telephone company… Another nephew and his family – two children aged 5 and 1.5 – remain in Marinka. He texted — “Holding together.” 

My niece finally called. She went to the park nearby, where she was able to get a signal. She said: 

“In one day, electricity, the internet, communication – all were lost. Only gas was left. I cooked some food and heated up the apartment. The next day, the gas supply also disappeared. It was severely cold. We finished our food. There is not enough water. The products are running out. We eat a little, we save the rest. The children ask for food. Thank God, it rained. They collected water in all the dishes we had. There was already bombing in the city. Shells were flying, planes were dropping bombs. The street near the house was hit. The explosion was so strong that the windows flew out. Shrapnel cut all the houses nearby – one splinter destroyed the neighbors' building.

They were bombing the city every 10 to 15 minutes. We hide under the bed with the children. I hate the occupiers. I cry tears of helplessness and horror.

In the intervals between the shellings, we have started looking for food and water. We found a well. We ran there with the children, because they were afraid to stay in the house alone. As soon as the siren started, we leapt into a nearby pit. We ran again. 

The shops are closed. Our military gave us a little food, so we can hold out a little longer. When we reached the nearby park, we saw large pits that had been dug. A truck brought human bodies there. Terror…Horror... 

Again, we are sitting under the bed in a cold house, without light, heat, without water and almost without food, and there is shelling without a break. The children cry out of fear. There was an explosion nearby that made the floor jump. Later we learned that a rocket hit our school, which is across the street. Our neighbors have left. We are cut off from the world. At night I hear trucks coming to the park and unloading something…we already know WHAT. 

It is impossible to fall asleep because of the terror and shelling. Oblivion ensues for an hour and a half... Some passersby who ran outside for water said that it is possible to hide in the basement of the Drama Theater and that there are already many people there. They wanted to run away, but the shelling started. One passerby fell and did not move. A day later we learned that the Drama Theater had been bombed, killing many people, two blocks from our house.

It’s a gray ghost town. It was once bright, crowded, green, and beautiful. But now it’s filled with black burnt houses, cars cut in half, with shattered fences. Corpses of civilians lie right on the road, some covered with rags. In yards and playgrounds, there are fresh piles of dirt – big, small, some with plaques or even homemade crosses. The stench of explosions mixed with the smell of rot. It’s like a terrible dream... a horror film, an apocalypse film. Three weeks in this horror is an eternity.

We started looking for a way out. We took our backpacks, went outside, and tried to hitchhike. One car stopped and picked us up and drove us to Melekyne. The whole coast was occupied. Orcs checked documents at checkpoints, threatened people with weapons, and behaved very brazenly. They beat up a boy who didn't look at them “in a polite way.” They held us for more than two hours.

In Melekyne, we were recorded. All of our data and phone numbers were taken. We were placed in a school where there were many people. There are opportunities to call, eat and drink, and charge our phones. In the evening the lights were turned off – the connection and the internet were lost. We needed to find a way to go to Berdyansk and Zaporizhzhya, to catch a private car. 

But the next day no one was released from the village. In the evening at 8:00, armed orcs came and told everyone to go to the buses. There will be an evacuation, the school will be closed, the lights will be turned off. They drove us somewhere all night and brought us to Starobeshev. They said they would take us to Rostov later. My youngest son became very ill, caught a cold, had a fever and a cough. There were many sick children.

They were taken to a hospital in Donetsk. They were not allowed to go outside. After recovering, the doctor called the military, which was the order that they gave him. They were escorted to Rostov and their documents were checked. Orcs looked at correspondence on their phones and social media accounts, looking for enemies.” 

We found out that they were released to relatives in Russia. They are there now, but they really want to return. They say that it is disgusting to be in a country that has taken away everything – a quiet life, home, smiles of sons, just the right to life and freedom. 

The children tremble in their sleep. Hate is fierce. 

In parallel with the fate of my niece, events unfolded in the family of my nephew who lived and worked on the left bank of Mariupol, near Azovstal. He rented an apartment just before the war with his wife and children (5 and 1.5 years old). They had a house in the gray area near Mariupol, but there was no work there, so my nephew worked in Mariupol on Azovstal.

When it all started, the occupiers first captured the left bank, and began bombing and leveling it. At the same time, everything was gone – light, heat, gas, internet and communication.

There were not enough clothes, household items, or food. The march to the well for water was horrible – killed civilians lay everywhere and they had to step over their bodies. When the shelling began, everyone fled, stumbling over the corpses. Food was prepared on the street using firewood. Many people died there. They sat in dirty, unfurnished, cold basements. Heavy artillery shelling and bombardment were regular occurrences. It happened every 10-15 minutes. If they were “lucky,” 30 minutes would pass without a shell flying overhead. 

They ran to other basements. When the house was hit, it burned and collapsed. The Ruscists bombed a nearby food kiosk. People did not want to take anything there, because they considered it theft. But gradually they started going and taking something, because there was nothing to eat. They even took alcohol, because they said that without it, it is difficult to survive in such a hell. You can die at any moment.

They ran to the bomb shelter, covering the childrens’ eyes so that they would not look at the corpses of civilians in the streets. It was not possible to hide them, because the breaks from the shelling were used to run for water, cook food, and collect firewood. But they still managed to bury some of the corpses right in the yards. 

The real horror began when the rockets began to hit neighboring houses, including the one next door. The houses caught fire and there was a black stench. People tried to run to their apartments to pick up at least some valuables.

My nephew ran to the apartment while his wife and children remained in the basement. He only managed to step aside and hold onto a small child, as debris hit a woman nearby. 

The roof of the house was on fire, the entrance was darkened by smoke, and he barely managed to jump out onto the street when the burning house collapsed. Everyone ran somewhere to hide in basements. Everywhere there were screams, moans, fuss, and crying children. People are dirty, wearing torn clothes… there are only civilian, residential houses here. It is a sleeping area of Mariupol. Gradually the shelling subsided and they caught their breath in some basement. They ran on foot to the outskirts of the city, hiding in doorways to somehow escape from hell. 

They were picked up by a car and it took them to Bezimenne, which was occupied in 2014. 

The car was stopped by strong men with weapons in a Jeep… their hearts dropped to their heels, it's over... but Russian journalists ran up with cameras, began to film them, and the military handed them a package, probably products. They smiled at the children on camera... it was scary and then disgusting…

In this village, they spent the night in tents. There was some broadband connection. They were able to tell their relatives where they were. The village in which they were staying was completely occupied. Nearby relatives were able to come and take them home.

It didn't get much better at home, because the orcs were crawling around the yards and taking the men. The so-called draft. Better a poor horse than no horse at all.

You can hear planes and helicopters flying towards Mariupol and powerful explosions can be heard from the left bank. Apparently, they are bombing Azovstal, where there are still a lot of civilians, children, elderly, and the sick. 

A terrible dream. All things burned – bank cards, the car. The children scream and tremble in their sleep. Where do you get the strength to live in this nightmare and not go crazy?

Almost a month of hell...in all the chats and groups on Facebook, I was looking for my nephews, worried about them, helping with information, waiting for a connection with my own son. He has been in Mariupol, in the military, in the Azov Regiment, for seven years.

Anxiety flashes in my brain all the time – son, how are you? He finally got in touch.

“Mom, I'm fine,” he said.  “We're holding on, cutting down our enemies. I'll come home with orders and awards on my whole chest.” 

"Come back, son, whatever it takes. Is there anything to eat?” 

“There is a little.” 

“Did you manage to get some sleep today, son?”

"No, I didn't manage, I'll go now, I'll daydream for at least an hour."

The next day I ask, “Did you manage to sleep?"

“Well, no, Mom, it didn't work out. There is a lot of work to be done. I'll come home and get some sleep. I so deeply want to take a bath and get into a clean bed. We only have wet wipes here. I will show photos of Mariupol; you will not recognize it. This is what is happening here, it's just awful. On the streets, under the rubble of apartment buildings, wounded civilians are begging for help, but we can't help everyone. We don't have time, we don't have opportunities. We have our tasks, which we do under constant fire and bombing. Of course, we try to help. It's a pity for the people, my heart is breaking. The stench, moans, cries, screams, of course, are not transmitted in the photo.”

Then there was no connection.. 

We were patiently waiting. Terrible news does not give peace – the city was surrounded. My beautiful son appeared on the line, finally…

“What's up, Mom? What's the situation? Are they helping us? Will they unblock the city? Who has Volnovakha now?” 

“Son, there are battles in the north of Volnovakha. Our president speaks to all parliaments, on all international platforms, asking to close the sky at least over Mariupol.” 

My son was silent, obviously hoping to hear something more encouraging.

“Mom, we will soon be fighting against the tanks with sticks…of course I have big plans for the future, but I want you to know, I do not regret anything.”

“Son, your birthday is March 25, maybe you will have time to win and come home to celebrate?” 

"Probably not, Mom."

This conversation took place on March 18. His hometown, where my children grew up, went to kindergarten and school, where we had many relatives and acquaintances... the occupiers turned into a ghost town – a gray, scorched, dirty desert.

Again no connection with our son… we waited holding our breath... I text, I don't even read... news comes from relatives and acquaintances who managed to escape... a cousin and his family escaped from the basement, orcs have already settled in their house…

It gets a little easier, but in my mind I always remember – my dearest is still there…

We understand that there is no connection and we patiently wait, but the stress is unbearable! I wake up in the middle of the night, my heart beats, I cry like you are there, son, hold on, praying, praying…

We try to hold on, we wait for him to call. On March 25, it was his birthday. He turned 28 years old. We congratulate our son in the chat. When there is a connection, he will read and rejoice. 

Please, I am writing letters with a request to unblock Mariupol and help the military in all social networks, foreign figures, bloggers, volunteers, all the time in the news – maybe there is help for Mariupol... Hopefully, we are waiting… 

My son sent his belongings to Kyiv by mail on February 23. On the 24th, the parcel still hadn’t arrived. We went to the local branch and asked where the parcel was. They said to wait, it will be delivered to us soon. 

We waited, we walked there again, we called them. The post office is a concrete wall. Nobody knows anything. The hotline is not working. Nobody can give any information, of course, because of the war.

They say that the parcel is in Kyiv, please wait. A month later, it was discovered that it had been mistakenly taken away by volunteers. We can't find it. 

On April 7, we received a call from the regiment: “Your son died.” 

…Pain.... pain, a lot of pain. This is not true... false... no... it can't be... no, it's not true...I will not accept it. No. No! No!

So many dreams, plans, hopes... he wanted to resign in January, but the commander asked him to stay a little longer... He wanted a family, children, and a civilian profession. He loved his country very much – Mariupol, Kyiv. He did not dream of living abroad; he only dreamed of traveling. 

Hope is alive! He will return – it is a mistake. We fight to find the parcel – there are his things, some documents, keys to a small safe. Yesterday I learned that my sister is alive near Mariupol, but there is no connection, no food, no money…Thank God she is alive...

We live in hope… 

Lyudmyla S, English teacher, Bucha, age 43. March 22

I am safe with my family in Khmelnytsky now but I heard some news from my neighbors in Bucha. They said that 2 days ago, the Russians searched every house in the neighborhood. Now they’re robbing houses, taking everything they want. On the day we left Bucha, I saw a lot of destroyed houses. Now people who stayed have to hide in their basements, because there are street fights and it's too dangerous to go out. Our town is very close to Kyiv, only 20 km away. 

I am feeling okay now. But for the first few days of the war, we were really scared. My reaction to every loud sound was to jump up and run somewhere to hide. Here in Khmelnytsky, I see a lot of migrants from Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Kharkiv, Sumy – these are the towns and cities that are in really dangerous situations. My husband's parents live in Mariupol and we haven’t heard anything from them since March 2. 

Every day of the invasion has stuck in my mind. We spent two and a half weeks in a besieged town very close to Hostomel military airport. My son was hiding in a wardrobe as he said that he felt safe this way. Maybe the scariest was when Russian cars and a huge tank stopped just outside our windows and I saw the armed soldiers on the tank very, very close up. 

Another one was the day when we fled from Bucha. There were 8 people in one car and two cats. We stopped at one of the Russian checkpoints (there were three of them). We unconsciously raised our hands above the car dashboard, we opened all the windows and one of the armed Russians came to us. At that moment, on the side of the road, I saw other soldiers hiding and pointing their guns at us. The Russian that came to us said that there is no need to raise our hands as they are not fascists, but for me that is what they are. Never before had I felt so much disgust and hatred as in that moment.

I want Western audiences to know that Ukrainians never wanted this war and until the last moment we were not expecting it to happen. My mother is Russian. She is from Siberia and we have many relatives there. So we are half-Russian, too. And I know that my cousins who are in the Russian military came here to Ukraine to kill us. And I wish them death as I see how much murder and destruction the Russians cause.  

The only thing we Ukrainians ask of the West is to close the sky and give us weapons we don't have. You all see how brave our army is. And I am absolutely sure we can fight the Russians back. So many people are united, as we must save our children for the future. 

Yevheniia, Sumy oblast, age 21. March 18

For me, the war started in the summer of 2014 when my birthplace in Luhansk was  captured by terrorists with Russian support. At that time, my mother and I had to leave in a hurry to Kyiv without enough money and only with summer clothes. But it wasn't as scary as it is now, as there was a place to run and live in safety.

For 8 years, we have lived peacefully and tried to get on with our lives. I managed to finish high school and even gained a Bachelor’s degree in law. Now I'm a student of Comenius University in Bratislava in a master's program. I was home on vacation in Ukraine, in a small town in Sumy oblast, when the war started. 

On February 24, my mom woke me up at 6 am and said Russia had started a full-scale war against Ukraine and our whole country was on fire. For my family, history had repeated itself. We immediately began to tape the windows with duct tape and pack the most important things. The difference between 2014 and 2022 is that now we have a cat named Miki and no place to run.

Fortunately, the situation is relatively calm in my town despite the regular air raid alert. I think it is due to the town's location. “Fun fact:” German Nazis during WWII avoided the city, as the Russians do now.

Nevertheless, there are some problems, like lack of food and medicine supply, power outages, and problems with mobile communication. At first glance, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is. Older people do not have enough money or have no opportunity to go to the shop and can't even contact their relatives via cell phone. 

People with chronic diseases can't buy life-saving medication and receive necessary treatment as doctors often come from other cities. Also there are many homeless animals in my town that suffer from hunger. Before, people fed cats and dogs near cafes or grocery stores or simply in yards. Now people themselves are on the verge of running out of food. I try to support them and feed everyone I can, but for me, it is heartbreaking. 

Briefly, the town was blockaded, but it’s a paradise here compared to Mariupol or Kharkiv.

That's my story. In conclusion, I want to ask Western audiences not to underestimate Putin – he is insane and cannot be considered a politician. He is a murderer, and if he and people who support his actions will feel impunity, they'll continue. Also, I ask you not to underestimate Kremlin propaganda, which denies the fact that Russia is waging a war against Ukraine. It encourages Russian people to support it and believe in this crazy idea. Every day the Kremlin creates new fakes about the war in Ukraine, trying to justify their actions, and the worst part is that most citizens of Russia believe it. 

Daria, English tutor/ translator, Zaporizhzhya oblast. March 18

The explosive wave that shuddered my front door and windows on February 24th changed my reality forever. I never thought that I would ever need to sleep in a cold basement, wear socks, warm trousers and a sweater 24/7 and feel terrified of any, even the slightest noise. I feel paranoid about any sort of plane in the sky. I suddenly feel cold in my warm clothes and start uncontrollably shaking. I always pray while entering our bomb shelter. 

I live in the countryside near the city of Cossacks – Zaporizhzhya. I’m pretty close to the international Zaporizhzhya airport that makes us a very attractive target to Russian fascists. We have been blessed so far to have our house, heating, electricity, water, and internet. We understand that can change at any moment, so we try to be very flexible and prepare basic things for survival. 

I am not leaving my home. I’m a wheelchair user. I live with my parents and four cats. My boyfriend is currently staying with us. He is a great comfort to me and he is literally my feet and arms whenever I need. 

It’s been three weeks since Putin decided to start his “special operation,” which is nothing but a genocide against the Ukrainian people. My neighborhood is more or less quiet so far. Sometimes one can think that there is no war, but the far away explosions, the air raid siren in the middle of the night, and random missile strikes are like a cold shower to us. 

In the evening we keep our house in the dark. We close the curtains tight and switch on my laptop. My boyfriend and I are fighting online – writing petitions to the EU and the USA, blocking Russian propaganda, and contacting all retail chains that are still doing business in Russia.

I dream of switching on the lights in the whole house. I dream of throwing a loud party. I will always hate fireworks, though. 

Right now I am trying to survive. Every single night when I go to bed or rush to our bomb shelter, I ask God to keep me and my family alive. I really want to travel all over the world. I don’t want to be a refugee. 

I am tremendously proud of our Ukrainian armed forces. I’m grateful to them for every peaceful moment I have. I understand how happy I actually was before the war…

I am amazed to see how much the world supports us! Ukraine is fighting for the freedom and safety of the whole world. I am grateful to the EU and NATO for giving us lots of weapons, and great humanitarian and financial aid. However, I wish they would close the sky over Ukraine and send us more military help. I am aware that it sounds unrealistic but I will never lose hope. I am sure Ukraine will have a bright, free future and every person will know my country as a symbol of unbelievable bravery.

Elena, PhD student, Kharkiv. March 18

I am writing answers to these questions after 22 days of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. Kharkiv is confident in its defense.

The city is constantly being attacked by rockets and fighters – there is artillery shelling. The main attacks are against ordinary houses and schools, markets, shops and churches. All my places were destroyed. My favorite streets are gone, the places I had coffee, met my friends, and read are almost gone.

Kharkiv has become an outpost, the first line of defense from the east, which allows us to  keep the situation under control. Mobilization of local authorities, territorial defense and volunteers took place with incredible speed. Kharkiv was constantly under scrutiny because of the large Russian-speaking population and sympathy for pro-Russian parties in the past (until 2014). 

Even under constant shelling, all infrastructure, local authorities, public services, and volunteer organizations continue to operate, and now no one has any doubts about the patriotism of everyone.

For the first couple of hours of the war it was just scary, I was really hoping that there was someone close to me online, someone I could write to. And then my brain started to work – what to do, what to put in my bag, where to hide (my 13th floor on the outskirts of the city was very unsafe). 

After I started to relax, when I was already out of town, there came apathy and fear that something could happen at any second. Since the 24th, I sleep in ordinary clothes, in which I used to go outside. And in general I sleep a lot. It became difficult to communicate with people. I want to support friends somehow, but there are no forces and emotions for this – I have to save them up beforehand.

I am feeling helpless because I have lost my home for the second time. The first time was in 2014 and the second was in 2022. And also I feel pride – pride in what kind of people surround me, what we are capable of.

I will always remember this moment when at 5:05am I sat down on the bed and saw the glow of explosions and smoke from fires far away. I will remember the feeling of fear that war has begun.

During the bombardment, one day I tried to get out of the city, but then the air attack started, and a woman started banging on the windows and calling me into the basement to take cover. I’ll remember her face and that kindness.

I will remember the moment of farewell to a friend at the train station and the way we hugged each other – I didn’t know if I’d get a chance to see him again.

I want people in the West to avoid making people in Russia who just now stood up against the terrorist regime heroes. Never forget that all the time since 2014 they have all been silent. Everyone had their reasons and I have no right to condemn them. But the heroes are the people of Mariupol, the rescuers of Kharkiv, the doctors on the front line. The heroes are every child sitting in basements right now. I’m afraid the media will forget about them.

First of all, I want to say thank you to Western governments and media. Because my country, my friends, are in danger, I will always feel that any reaction is not enough, because we are under attack. But I am very grateful to all the volunteers, journalists and politicians.

We need a closed sky and a stronger reaction. I would like the media as well as politicians to understand that this regime is not going to stop in Ukraine, but will want to take more territory, just not immediately, but when everything calms down (as it was before with Moldova and Georgia). There is always the risk of nuclear blackmail, and it is not just Ukraine’s problem. I think it is time to review the existing security assurances, agreements, and arrangements of international organizations. The political system no longer works as it should.

I would like the media not to be shy in rhetoric. Every day about 5 children die in Ukraine, and some of them have not yet learned to speak in order to defend their rights.

Yevhen P, civic activist and PhD, Odesa. March 12

The news about war started to spread widely in Ukraine three or four months before it actually started. I was trying to prepare somehow, but when you are in an ordinary state of mind, your brain doesn't believe that somebody without reason will start to attack a peaceful country.

Near 4:30 AM on February 24, I woke up with some strange feeling. I opened the news to check if maybe something has happened already. And yes, Vladimir Putin was giving a new fake history lesson. It was a terrible feeling that everything would happen now, but still, my brain tried to believe that everything would be fine and it was just a bluff. 

Near 5 AM, my previous life, habits, and plans were ruined. At that time, the whole city heard a few huge explosions… and then the next two days were like being in a fog. For the last 15 days, the air raid alert became almost the usual signal for moving to the bomb shelter. The Russian Army is shooting everywhere, including hospitals, ordinary households, kindergartens, and other civilian infrastructure. In Odesa, they are using their ships and trying to land their amphibious assault.

At the same time, I see a tremendous social mobilization and growth of activism. I see that everybody is trying to be helpful and produce as much help as they can. Our army is fighting very bravely, and everybody is trying to help the country’s defense. 

It was great to see how people and governments worldwide support Ukraine and our people. I appreciate countries that started to support Ukraine with ammunition and defensive weapons, all the people and foundations that support people in need and provide humanitarian aid to refugees. At the same time, Russia has a vast army and behaves in an inhuman way and destroys cities and infrastructure. So I hope that other countries, especially from the EU and NATO, will provide even more support to defend our people, our country, and human values. 

Alexander D, Kyiv. March 11

The last few days in Kyiv were “quiet.” Two days ago, a Russian fighter plane was shot down and crashed 6 kilometers away from my house. From that time I have heard nothing about attacks on Kyiv, but I still hear the sirens and read about air raid alerts in a special app that was made to warn people about danger. The sirens remind us that not far from Kyiv, there are battles and the threat is still real. Most Kyiv citizens realize that this “silence” doesn't mean we're safe.

Today I visited a few supermarkets to buy food. A week ago the queues were long, and it was difficult to buy meat, bread, milk products, eggs, but now the situation has changed. Today I found all kinds of products. In the official app of the Kyiv City Administration, there is a map with supermarkets and pharmacies that work today in the city. Also public transport is partially working.

A lot of people left the capital of Ukraine. On the streets of Kyiv, I mostly see men and older people. 

Today I drove through the city and saw a lot of security checkpoints where representatives of the Territorial Defense are on duty. They check the cars and try to find the sabotage groups. Czech hedgehogs (anti-tank obstacles) have been installed on strategic roads. Also there are a lot of dugouts in the city.

I think Kyiv is ready to meet the enemy. A lot of people are working together to defend their city.

Oleksandr V, from Kharkiv, age 40. March 11

As a volunteer, I went to defend Ukraine in 2014, where I was wounded and returned home.  I started my own Blade Brothers Knives knife business, and I founded and ran the Knife Fighting Federation of Ukraine.  Now my business is ruined, and 90% of my Federation's instructors have gone to the war.

Russia attacked Ukraine at night like a thief, firing missiles at many cities at once. They say they use high-precision weapons and only hit military installations, but in fact they are bombing homes, hospitals, and maternity hospitals.  So they want to break our will so that we will beg them to stop.

However, we are evacuating our wives and children and going to war.  In one week, more than 100,000 men returned to Ukraine to kill Russians. I am deliberately saying not to "defend my country" but to kill the Russians, because we are overwhelmed with hatred for what they have done. They want to destroy us as a nation, and we will never forgive them. We will not forgive them and we will take revenge.

Western governments believe that this war can be localized by calling it a "conflict,” limited to sanctions and arms supplies.

Yes, we are grateful for the weapons and sanctions, for all the wonderful support that the Western world is giving us. However, you must understand that war cannot be won by sanctions – you can only win the battle by fighting.

You do not want to inflame the conflict?  Ok, Putin will do it for you.  Today he will involve Belarus in the war, then his other allies – Kazakhstan and Armenia.  He will use chemical weapons as in Syria, carry out terrorist attacks on Chernobyl, Zaporizhia and our other nuclear power plants, and then all of Europe will suffer. Ukraine will be followed by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

An ancient philosopher once said that war cannot be avoided – it can only be postponed in favor of the enemy. I hope that Western governments will not make such a mistake. Because the war has already begun.

Lyubov V,  investigative journalist, Vinnytsia. March 11

On February 24, my husband and my five-year-old twin sons woke up at 4:30 am to the sound of a rocket strike. Our house is 700 meters from a military base, the building of which was almost completely destroyed. When I went to Facebook, I read the terrible words that a war had broken out in my country. Russia attacked Ukraine.

It's been two weeks, and I still can't believe it. It’s like I'm in a dream. It is impossible. These horrors, those killed children, and the destruction of schools and hospitals ... Is all of this happening in my Ukraine?

I dressed the children in 5 minutes. Then I laid mattresses and blankets in the cellar, where we store vegetables and preserves. The children asked, "Mom, why are we going to the cellar?" I replied: "Because there is a war. Russia does not want you and me to exist." And then my five-year-old son answered in a very calm and confident voice: "Mom, don't worry, everything will be fine. Ukraine will win."

At that moment, I thought only of the children – they need to be saved at all costs. In a few hours we gathered our things. All the most valuable things we had fit in the trunk of our car. As soon as we got into the car, we heard another explosion – another missile hit the military base. 

We went to my mother, away from the border with Belarus and Russia. There, 250 kilometers away is a little safer. But what is safety? As we approached the city, we witnessed another missile strike on ammunition depots.

I will never forget that dawn. We refueled at a tiny gas station. And here - an explosion and a bright red flame on a black and blue sky background.

Vinnytsia is a regional center with about 400,000 inhabitants. I spent my childhood here and I know every nook and cranny. And how strange it is to see my school become a headquarters where volunteers come to enroll in the Territorial Defense. They get weapons and body armor, and guard checkpoints and patrol my city. There are so many people willing to enroll that people are selected on a competitive basis. Only those who have combat experience or have their own registered weapons are taken. Not to mention the state of health.

Even I wanted to enlist in the Territorial Defense. Despite the fact that all my life I held only a rifle in the dash. But in the shooting range I shot accurately! Anger and rage overwhelmed me so much that I dreamed of shooting at least one Russian soldier. I dream of killing a man. For the first time in my life. I think of the murder when I look at the corpses of killed Russian soldiers and burnt equipment with the fascist "Z" emblem.

Every Ukrainian now has this desire. We are very angry and motivated. Even the children help to detain saboteurs! A few days ago, children were walking in the yard and noticed a suspicious man trying to climb onto the roof of a high-rise building. The children told their parents, and they called the police. It turned out that he was a Russian spy.

Ukrainians now act as a single organism. I do not know anyone who would not help the Ukrainian Army now. On my phone are more than ten local groups set up a few days ago to address logistics or humanitarian issues. After all, it is not only soldiers who are needed in war, but also a reliable rear. People weave camouflage nets, collect warm clothes, food, and medicine for the displaced, buy weapons and ammunition for our soldiers in all possible ways...

Yes, there is less food on store shelves. Yes, we hear sirens warning of missile strikes day and night. The other day the Russians destroyed the airport 10 kilometers from the center of Vinnytsia. But we do not feel fear. We become even angrier and more motivated.

We are confident of victory and visualize our revenge. For every soldier killed. For every child who died from Russian missiles and rifles. For every ruined home. And for every tear.

We know better than anyone what Russia is capable of. What atrocities Russia is ready to use to destroy us Ukrainians. After all, Russia tried to do it for hundreds of years – Russia has tried to erase our language, our culture, and killed the best representatives of our nation. We were taught all of this at school in history lessons. We feel the pain of our ancestors. And now this pain is multiplying the anger at what is happening now. As a result, a force is born that the atomic bomb never dreamed of. And now imagine how ridiculous the fact that Russia and Putin dare to impose some demands and ultimatums on us Ukrainians – it seems ridiculous to us!

We feel stronger and more united than ever! Last night, I spoke with a biologist from Kharkiv, a city that is now being terrorized by the Russian Federation with extreme brutality. This man, Serhiy, voiced what every Ukrainian feels now: "Russia will be able to destroy Ukraine only on one condition: if it kills all Ukrainians to the last." And then he added: "You know, it would be cool to die in battle." 

Ukraine will definitely win. The only question is the price of this victory. We, Ukrainians, appeal to the whole world only to reduce the number of killed children and destroyed maternity hospitals. We are not asking for our problems to be solved, no. Give us weapons to save more Ukrainian lives and destroy the evil empire faster. We are ready to fight ourselves – soldiers, civilians, women, old, sick, and all.

Vladimir, programming teacher, Kherson, age 24. March 11

My story is not that interesting because I stay home most of the time. But I can write a few words about life in Kherson these days.

On the first of March, five bad things happened: 

  1. The Russians invaded Kherson (obviously bad). 
  2. In the process, they killed innocent people, but there's not as many casualties as there are in Mariupol or Kharkov. 
  3. Some of our Territorial Defense troops – ordinary people who wanted to defend our city – were killed by the Russians. They had a plan – they would ambush the enemy and throw Molotov cocktails. But something went wrong... Some of them cannot even be identified anymore; heavy weapons were used on them. Different sources tell different data – they killed from 8 to 16 people.
  4. Fabrika, the main place where many citizens eat, rest, buy things, etc., seems like it was hit by one or two tank shots, and a fire started. As the news says, firefighters arrived, but the Russians shot at their water tank. So the firefighters took shelter, and Fabrika continued to burn... The building remains, but most of the inside is ashes and dust.
  5. Maraudeurs. They just see an opportunity in this war and show their true nature by going to marketplaces and shops to steal things. Of course, many people see them and do what needs to be done. These bad people were punished with beatings. 

After this, not that much has happened in Kherson. The main things were that our televisions now broadcast Russian channels (except one – “Kherson UA").

On the fourth of March, the Russians did not allow our buses with supplies to go to town, because they have their own supply. They wanted to film people who wanted food and have them say on Russian TV that the Russians are "helping" us. But there were only 3-4 people who actually got those provisions into their hands, and hundreds stayed aside and loudly shamed the Russian soldiers.

After that, people wanted to show them how we "like'' them.

On the fifth of March – and every day since – protests start at 10am. One police officer even got on their armored vehicle and waved the Ukrainian flag! 

Every day we hear explosions, but most of them are not that loud. The reason for them is our army – they shoot the Russians with artillery and with Bairaktar.

And about mental health and the value of life... Maybe it's a horrible thing to say, but many of our people (myself included) are now taking news like "don't panic, the Ukrainian army is working!" with happy faces and relief. 

For the first few days of war I, unlike most members of my family, had an opinion that Russian soldiers are people, like us. Yes, they are soldiers, but they have stories, families, and homes. It's sad to see more and more people dying in that war. But they are staying on our land, killing innocent people, using bombs to terrorise our citizens and other horrible things. Right now I do not feel anything for these animals except rage. 

There's a new law that our government passed. Now any citizen can kill Russian soldiers without consequences. And our people will use that law, as much as they can, to resist the Russian soldiers.

We will defend our country, as Russia transforms into a second North Korea day by day. 

Marharyta, from Kyiv, age 25. March 10

My name is Marharyta, and a few days before the war I turned 25 years old. I celebrated my birthday in Budapest. There, in their most famous ruin-bar, I wrote "Glory to Ukraine.” The day before the war I returned home and it was my last good night.

 I worked as a PR manager and a journalist, participated in the struggle for the preservation of Kyiv and was an urban activist.

 I had many things in my life: sports, Spanish lessons, meeting friends, and a lot of travel. It all ended one day.

 There were really no alternatives. My family stayed in Kharkiv, I was alone in Kyiv. I didn't want to run away. I wanted to do something. So I decided to become a part of the Territorial Defense Forces. My family was shocked by my decision, but they supported me.

The new reality is to sleep and wake up to the sound of sirens. It does teach you new things. I took a first aid course, so I was able to become a doctor - something like a nurse.

 I am engaged in the purchase of medicines and the treatment of patients. So far, only colds, fevers, and so on.

 It is not difficult to live in a team of men. I am respected and do not allow myself too much. To do this, I had to try and show that I am not a woman. Here, I am a soldier, a doctor, a colleague. I will get to be a woman again after the war.

I would very much like to tell the readers to never forget about Ukraine. The war has been going on for 8 years, and just in the last 13 days it has spread to the whole territory of our country. We are not giving up, we are not capitulating. Ukraine is the last outpost of Europe before the inadequate Putin.

 Remember us, go out to protest, tell European leaders to close the sky over Ukraine. 

 We are grateful to the American people for their many years of support. Pray for us.

Varvara (Write the World Review submission; 18 years old)

This piece is republished with permission from the Write the World Review, which features a special series on Ukraine. Write the World Review publishes outstanding teen voices. Visit their website for more content and to listen to the author read her essay.

Refugee

5:33 a.m.

i woke up to a rapid push: we were underway. our commuter train had been standing still since 10 p.m. the previous day: we were letting an on-coming train pass us since there was only one railway line leading to the country’s border. seven hours of complete stillness and darkness in a tiny coach with certainly ten times more people than there were supposed to be.

there hasn’t been a moment of silence since we set off. behind me—a three-month-old baby. it has been crying for an indefinite amount of time. in front of me—three little children aged somewhere between three and ten sitting in the arms of their mothers. they too have been crying for an indefinite amount of time. they are hungry, tired, scared. and i feel for them. and it hurts.

normally, the road from lviv to przemysl should have taken us only one to two hours. however, the situation is clearly beyond normal. everything seems to be so beyond normal.

my phone died a couple of hours ago. i don’t care much about that—there is no service around this god-forsaken field we have been standing in. the only thing i care about is my mom not hearing back from me for quite a while now. her paranoid mind probably thinks that i got stuck somewhere, got kicked out of the train. i am indeed all alone here so she has her reasons to be anxious. we said our goodbyes at the train station in my hometown. in the tiny window, i saw her standing on the platform, lost and consumed by her thoughts, trying to see me through the glass from the other side, holding back the tears. she never cries.

i hope to see her soon. or, should i say, i just hope to see her again.

i still wonder what terrible luck got me onto this train. i remember how it was, i remember it from the very beginning. from my best friend waking me up with a phone call to us packing the go-bags; to us going to the store and seeing nothing on the shelves; to people panicking on the streets; to students leaving their dorm rooms without looking back; to my mom begging me to come home from kyiv; to me catching the last train home; to me seeing thousands of people at a subway station—with kids, pets, suitcases; to me coming home and us sitting in the air-raid shelter every day; to my mom convincing me to leave, to cross the border all alone, right before they would surround our city and there would be no way out; to me almost suffocating in the crowd when boarding the train to lviv; to us having ten people in the seat instead of the regular four, to a couple of ecuadorian students sitting in the train hall with a tiny dog in their hands; to the kids crying; to the women fighting; to finally exiting this tired train.

i remember boarding at 7:55 p.m. the previous day, remember the complete chaos at the railway station. mothers with children, screaming and crying out to the train conductors: “please, i have a baby here, please, help us!”; people shouting at each other because of pushing and pulling; men trying to make way for their wives and kids, shoving them onto the train; bags and suitcases being handed above the crowd of heads; children being handed over as well; bags falling down, falling on the heads, falling on the rails; the conductors trying to keep a cold head but still losing their temper. and i remember myself in the center of it: i was going with the flow, in complete peace, having no strength for anything else, holding my tote bag tightly, with that weird confidence that i would one way or another get onto that train. my sensory systems were completely overloaded, and i was out of touch. still, hope remained. physically unable to scream or push or cry or even say something after a number of sleepless nights, i just believed in this. simply going with the flow. and somehow i got on. and somehow i was lucky.

“yes, lucky,” you’d agree.

and i’d say: “yes, a refugee.”

Varvara is an eighteen-year-old university student. On February 24th, 2022, she was woken up at 5 a.m. by a call from her best friend telling her that the airport located near their dorm was being bombed. Running from the war, she spent around 72 hours on the road when she finally reached her final destination—the Polish border crossing point.

Yelyzaveta (Write the World Review submission; 18 years old)

This piece is republished with permission from the Write the World Review, which features a special series on Ukraine. Write the World Review publishes outstanding teen voices. Visit their website for more content and to listen to a recorded reading of this essay.

Trying to Escape

The last five minutes I was running to the railway station under sounds of sirens. Do I have to hide? Do I have enough time? Where to run? I won't survive, I think.

Sirens stop and I appear at the railway station. There are thousands of people and my mind calls to memory how to stay safe in the crowd. I have a train ticket but tickets don’t matter anymore. I have to get anywhere! I have to run away from the gunshots on the streets!

My friends are staying in bomb shelters for now. My relatives are in other cities. I’m 18 years old and leaving Kyiv alone. Others will leave later, when they lose their hope that it’s just a nightmare.

The evacuation train is announced: it goes to Lviv. The crowd on the platform is hardly stopped by police. People say that earlier police shot in the air. How can police shoot near people running away from the war?

I'm lucky, as a girl I was put on the train. On this platform families are divided and children are lost. I ask people on the train not to read the news. I'm afraid so much that the train will be shot by rockets. When I am safe, I will read the news of Mykolaiv, where my parents are. I will read the news of Kyiv, where my friends are. But here, with no influence over the violence, news of what could transpire—of battles along the journey—is something that only terrifies.

All the time I hold a gas spray in my hands, I fear that somebody can take my only backpack away.

I learn the names of people next to me. There is Katya, she’s an elementary school teacher and is leaving Donetsk with two children. They’re on their way for over twenty-four hours and don't have water. There is Lera, a cynologist. She is with two big dogs, one of them lies on the floor and whines—she is scared and thirsty.

Everybody is with somebody. They have a plan and relatives abroad, while I think that I can make it alone. I suggested that my mother and sister come. But mom does not want to leave father, cat, and grandmother. The father will not be able to leave, the grandmother does not want to, and the cat simply does not understand anything and hides under the bed.

In the train I hear sirens three times. The first time, I am very scared; I don’t understand where to hide. Later I became apathetic; I can’t influence anything. I can't even fall on the floor: there is a dog. I'm waiting for Lviv and hope everything is finished.

But it isn’t finished. Lviv meets me with more air raid alerts, more panic attacks. All hopes that I could be safe in the quiet west of Ukraine have vanished. War is here too.

Two hours of sleep. Three air raids. Children who seem to be already accustomed to running to the basement of the nearest school. I'm shaking, but still here. I have to find transport to the border. I learn that a started engine sometimes sounds like sirens.

I feel only cold. I wore autumn shoes and thin socks. I lost my hat and gloves, so my head is in my hood and hands in pockets. I stand in queues for hours, the ground under my feet like ice.

It takes seven hours on foot to reach the border. I climb over the fence of the checkpoint, push through the crowd of foreigners and a burnt-out fire next to the Polish line. I feel cold everywhere. But I have made it. I go to the nearest refugee camp and there I finally cry. Life will never be the same.

Yelyzaveta is eighteen years old. She abandoned her studies and work on the third day of the war and left. At first, she was in Poland, now she is trying to find herself in the Czech Republic.

Roman (Write the World Review submission; 18 years old)

This piece is republished with permission from the Write the World Review, which features a special series on Ukraine. Write the World Review publishes outstanding teen voices. Visit their website for more content and to listen to the author read his essay.

The War Is Not a Movie

I have known two wars: the first I saw, heard and felt, knowing all its bullying, while the second one I am facing again right now. I live in Poland, where the sky is clear, the earth is alive, and the people and the city live to the fullest, but my parents . . . they again face war and are in great danger, because Mariupol has been turned into a new Leningrad. Food and water in limited quantities, electricity, gas, and mobile communications completely absent. For more than a week I have not been able to hear the voices of my relatives, I don’t know how they are or what is happening to them . . .

Looking out the window, where the sun shines brightly, luring you to go outside to the park or café, you see gray landscapes, close the curtains and plunge into a dark room. Opening the refrigerator to warm up delicious food and make tea with cookies, you run away from the kitchen into your own room. When you are going to watch an interesting movie or a funny video, you close all these tabs and write “Ukrainian news” in the search box and read them for hours. You might think, why do you bother yourself like that? But how could it be otherwise?

I am now in another country, a thousand kilometers from the war, in warmth and comfort, while my family is in the basement of my school. I have lost my appetite and eat just porridge and meat. I have nightmares where I drown in the open ocean during a storm and suffocate. I am alone in Poland and in order to calm down, I talk to my sister on the phone, listen to music and continue to write my novel about the horrors that I have seen, however I will not understand those ones that happen in my country right now. I am afraid that all the events that I describe there will come true: the loss of relatives, loneliness, great difficulties, and flight from war.

My mind travels back. To the street where I played and learned to cycle; to our big garden, where we picked fresh vegetables and fruits, and also the intoxicating air full of flower pollen. To my grandfather's vineyard, who always made my favorite compote. To the lake where I went fishing with my father, walked through the wild field and enjoyed the wonderful smell of rain. To the farm that gave me quite a few memories: fluffy white sheep, flocks of poultry, and also, strangely enough, friendship with a blue-eyed goose! And my mind travels back to Mariupol, to the city that changed before my eyes—its gray houses repainted in warm and bright hues.

The sounds are most memorable for me. In childhood, this is the songs of birds, especially titmouses. I still find their chirping soothing; I associate them with a carefree life and the arrival of spring, which I love so much. In Mariupol, this is the music that was playing in the square, and the cries of seagulls that hovered over the sea water.

Remembering now all these moments, I also think about how my parents feel now. They are probably scared, sad and nervous, but I know them and I am sure that they will overcome these difficulties, like all the others. Today is my mom’s birthday and I imagine how my dad was able to get her a small but a nice gift, hugging her in the shelter of my school and remembering his children and loved ones, knowing that they are safe, feeling fear and anxiety, hearing the sounds of shooting and explosions of bombs, sitting in the cold and with a lack of provisions, but smiling from happiness and success of their native blood, that we do not see all this horror.

Thinking about the future is very difficult. My thoughts are filled with questions about how to get a job, where to find money, how to graduate from university and save my parents.

I pray that the war will end soon, my country will win the war and peace will come again, and that I will fall into the embrace of my family again. I believe that everything will be fine and I try to remain optimistic even at a time like this.

Roman grew up in a small town on the outskirts of the borders of Ukraine. However, the war in 2014 forced him and his family to move to Mariupol. He continues to move forward with new ambitions. He is eighteen years old.

Diana (Write the World Review submission; 17 years old)

This piece is republished with permission from the Write the World Review, which features a special series on Ukraine. Write the World Review publishes outstanding teen voices. Visit their website for more content and to listen to the author read her essay.

Reconstruction

My fingers are sore from the cold; my coat is soaked with rain. I am clinging to the blue stripe of the flag, trying to stay grounded, keeping my thoughts under control. But they scatter. I am staring blankly at people who prepare for the approaching march, while the white noise from their excitement fills my ears.

Main street is busy during lunchtime. Some, hurried by the rain, throw a quick look at us, before disappearing in the warmth of a cafe. Some stop and scrutinize our procession. Do we look silly? Threatening? Or, perhaps, miserable? Curious, I survey the gathering. Ordinary people with extraordinary hearts—they answered to the plea in the local magazine to join the march.

“Let’s go!” someone cries out, impatient to start moving.

Blue, yellow, together and separate, orange buckets, grey coats, “squak-squak” of boots in puddles. They proceed through the street, pushing me forward. I move, unable to say a word to the people whom I give a rain-beaten leaflet about Ukrainian refugees, bombed houses, humanitarian crisis and a link for donations. They seem to understand what we do the moment they see blue and yellow on the leaflet. A smile is given to me, but I catch it too late and smile back at the emptiness.

When the sun finally comes out, I realize: everyone in the procession has sore fingers and soaked clothes. Same as me. Someone holds another side of the flag. Others carry the buckets for donations. The rest distribute the leaflets. Are their thoughts scattered as well? Do they know what they are doing? They keep smiling, but their gaze is tense. Do they smile merely to reassure themselves that the march is the right thing to do? What if... My thoughts jumped from one doubt to another.

Since Ukraine has been invaded, I feel that my inner world has been invaded as well. I do not feel it belongs to me. The boundaries of my pain were crossed, and I was left with a bullet in my rationality. I have experienced the war twice. Can a person die two times? I surely did. Both in 2014, when my roots were cut, as I left the Donetsk region where I was born, and in 2022, when it affected the whole country—people I love.

This is why I concentrate on the people around me. Try to peep into their sane worlds, try to find a solution to the problem or a place to hide. Until the war ends, I do not have my world. The Me before is now a stranger, the Me now is nobody, the Me in the future...Whom will I be? I look at a leaflet for the answer and read my own words: ‘Open your eyes. Take responsibility’. Printed on the paper, they feel so distant. But they are mine. One day, these words and the actions they lead to, will define who I am.

We continue walking. I turn on the corner of the street and march, trying to reconstruct my world. Little by little. Step by step under the rain.

Diana is seventeen years old and was born in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. In 2014, she was forced to move to Cherkasy, as Russia began the war. She was abroad, studying in the UK, when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24th February. Together with her friends, she has organised marches to fundraise for Ukraine.

Regina L, Mykolaiv, age 50. March 8

February 22

Today I saw tanks passing by my building. They looked dirty, outdated and out of place. Although I knew they must have been on the way to the military base right outside of the city, it was unsettling to see. Our home is in the south of Ukraine. Life here has not been affected as much by the war in the Donbas (Eastern Ukraine) that has been raging for 8 years. Across the country, the families of the fallen soldiers, the number of whom has exceeded 13,000 by now, have been suffering, mostly silently. Many more soldiers were wounded. Over 2 million Ukrainians became displaced. It was referred to as Europe's invisible war that few outside of the country noticed or talked about, until recently…

I was born in Russia but grew up in Ukraine. My parents were students in St. Petersburg. For many people here with roots in both countries, the Russia-Ukraine conflict feels deeply personal and unfathomable. Yet, it is very real and very dangerous and can no longer be ignored. Ukraine is facing a lot of uncertainty but the people are peace-loving and very resilient and they will persevere. 

February 24

Amidst the unthinkable and unprecedented, Ukrainian people are doing what they do best: uniting, keeping calm, staying civil, comforting each other and caring for one another.  And thanks to you, they know they are not alone. They do. Let peace prevail. 

February 25

Dearest, you have not lived long enough to see the tragedy that is unfolding in your homeland. You were such a positive spirit but I know that your eyes would fill up with tears at hearing this. We feel your presence. You are protecting us from above. The pendant. With your fingerprint. Wherever I go. I remember you, Andrew. 

Proud of you, Ukraine! Character, honor, courage and commitment make up the nation. You have them in abundance. And nobody can take that away!

February 26

Tick-tock-tick-tock. Since Russia launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine, time here is no longer measured by hours, days, weeks, months. It's by the second, by the minute. Listening intensely. Counting seconds of calm. Tick-tock-tick-tock. Are they still bombing? 

Do I still hear the sound of fighter jets flying over? Using every second of calm to rest: physically, emotionally. 

To hug loved ones. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock.

February 27

Sadly, we are witnessing the disappearance of "good morning,” "good afternoon,” "good evening," and "goodnight" in Ukraine. Ukrainians no longer know what to tell each other! There is only one word we want to say and hear, the most important of all: PEACE

February 28

War makes for great stories, photos and videos. Ukrainians are not interested in making great war stories. Ukrainians don't want to star in war movies. Ukrainians want PEACE!

March 1

Love thy neighbor! With all your heart. Extended family is not there. Neither are business partners. Amidst the shelling, the shooting, and the missile attacks, to the non-stop air raid siren sounds, no one but your neighbors are standing with you shoulder to shoulder, sharing food, shelter and conversations. Stronger together, with neighbors.

 

March 3

Do you see what we see? Do you hear what we hear? Do you feel what we feel? I hope you never do. That's why Ukraine keeps fighting with all her might. And she won't have it any other way!

March 4

Don't ask Ukrainians what day of the week it is. Wars have neither weekdays nor weekends. We only know that it is Day 9 of war. Don't ask us what time it is. There are only two time periods here: in shelter and out of shelter. Every moment is a gift. Every morning is a gift. Every day is a gift. We heard it before. We know it now. Let peace prevail!

March 8

Global community,

THIS IS GENOCIDE!

Moral and financial support has been unparallelled and much appreciated. Growing sanctions, global protests, illuminating landmarks in blue and yellow, musical performances of the Ukrainian national anthem, fundraisers... Yet nothing slows down the pace of the atrocities. 

Putin's troops are wiping Ukraine, its people and its culture off the face of the Earth, demolishing community after community, city after city, methodically, with unparalleled brutality. The lives of 45 million people are being crushed. Where is God?

ODESA - the Jewel of the Black Sea, is now bracing for bombings. The next one in the long lineup of peaceful Ukrainian cities and small towns subject to the devastating air strikes, artillery fire and non-stop terrorism for the past 13 days. 

THIS IS GENOCIDE!

Appeal to your governments to do everything in their power to stop the Russian invasion into the sovereign Ukraine! Keep up the good work. Save innocent souls whose land is being tortured and burnt! Bring back the peaceful sky over Ukraine and over the world.
 

 

Olga B, university professor from Odesa. March 8

Today, of course, one already thinks that all this was clear before. You can start with Crimea in 2013, or you can start with the eight-day war with Georgia. When the war starts, everyone is tearing their hair out: Why weren't we ready? Why did our government sleep through everything? But let's be honest: NOBODY foresaw such a turn as February 24. Simply because it is absolutely meaningless. There was no interest in this, no more opportunities for the Russian Federation than if they continued the hybrid war, which we reflected on for the ninth year with varying success. Even more, looking at the reaction, for example, of the Hungarian state television on February 24 (the commentator declared Russia’s right to defend “its own” and compared Zelensky with Hitler), I understand that we were losing the information war. And here's a twist that no political scientist has ever spoken of as a minimally realistic scenario.

On February 19, my best friend celebrated his 60th birthday. We managed to traditionally fry kebabs, drink wine, which he himself makes every year, eat a delicious cake, and even dance at the request of the hero of the day. And then we were covered by a wave of conflicting news: Russia is preparing to attack, the day and hour are known when the Russian Federation will attack. The English SUN called him; and then a day passed, and an hour, and two. Nothing - and even memes appeared with Atkinson, how we are waiting for them, but they do not come. Sometimes I have premonitions; I don't like them very much and I try to put pressure on myself. It’s impossible not to feel the “goosebumps” on the back of the neck, remembering that under Stalin everything was done by certain dates: they took Stalingrad like that, etc. etc. The reddest dates are November 7, February 23.

And on the night of February 23-24, it begins. War. Real war, about which we only read in books. Enemies climbed from all sides, including Belarus .

24 hours. Emotions.

The first 24 hours is a time of shock and I would even say cognitive dissonance. You go into another room and by the time you get there, you forget what you came there for; you start a phrase - you forget the word, and another, and everything falls apart without meaning. Words have left me. For me it's quite strange; I'm a professional chatter. This is ‘my everything.’ 

So the main emotion is confusion. Suddenly everything lost its meaning. Why recharge? Read a lecture? Write an article? And what are the clothes for? Books? You can't take it with you if you run. I started to collect everything as a “disturbing bag” -- medicines, some wires, a computer, in general, communication is the main thing, the main thing. It's scary to even think about how it would be without it. And at this time, everyone calls, writes; many of my friends are from behind the cordon. The word "cordon" cuts the ear. This is the line that cut us off from them. We are with our trouble, they are there. This seemed to be the main thing. I don’t have the strength to read, "We are with you, if anything, we will help, write only how to help." Well, Lord, how can you help me from there?

And confusion is replaced by anger. I'm trapped and no one will help. My whole country is trapped. And the world is silent. It is disgusting to look at the bleating of world leaders -- they all talk about nothing as always. And I see clearly: no one will help us. They are no longer talking about how to stop the fights, but about what will happen next. It’s like we don’t exist anymore, we were written off. Biden revealed this logic: the sanctions were supposed to stop Putin, but they didn't. I read this as "We don't have a plan B.” No one sends weapons, no one turns off the SWIFT, no one covers the sky above us, from which death is pouring with might and main. And the thought beats: we were abandoned, we were deceived.

Against this background, the question of friends, the same from all: well, how are you there? Irritated. I wanted to scream: What do you think? We are afraid, we are very afraid. But, of course, you politely answer: thank you, while everything is quiet, we are in the city, we are considering how to leave, if anything, to the village. A dialogue with Nazira was very important; she survived the eight-day war and fled from Abkhazia to Tbilisi. Now she is there. And she gave advice: No, this is a bad option, it’s better to sit in the city, be patient, stock up on candles, alcohol, and water. And I immediately believed her that if you twitch, it will be even worse.

Then I spoke with another refugee from Donetsk, and she also said: Sit quietly, the best place is in the corridor closer to the load-bearing wall and away from the windows. The fighting will not last long; it is important what happens next. The fact that everything will end quickly is reassuring, simply because there is no strength to think about the same thing all the time. And in a circle. And again.

Therefore, anger gives way to physical fatigue. No matter what you do, your strength quickly ends, as if you are rolling a huge stone uphill. I can't think, I can't speak, I can't do anything.

Third-party observation: Do not think beyond tomorrow morning; everything can change, literally everything.

48 hours. I'm thinking.

And then I see that our army is fighting, and people are helping, very young people are lining up to donate blood for our wounded. The thought that we have already won because we have not given up changes everything. The first victims have gone. I'm crying, I haven't seen them, but I can imagine them so clearly, they are dear to me, like my children, which I don't have. Long before the war, I already knew that Ukrainians should fight for Ukraine. And so it happened. Who do you get angry at? Biden, the "world leader"? On the collective impotent, the EU? God is with them.

Humility has come, acceptance of one's fate. And at that moment I remembered the old song "All That Jazz" by Bob Fosse. There, the comedian on the show learned that he was terminally ill and will die. He goes through all the stages from unbelief to humility. I went through them in a day, well, a little more. On the second day, I realized that we will adapt or die. So I concluded that there is no difference between thoughts about my death and a global catastrophe: the same stages, emotions, the strength of these emotions.

I am a pessimist, always dissatisfied with something. But after a disaster, how everything changes! How keenly you perceive life, its color and light, its beauty; you understand that you lived beautifully, so much was given, and so much was in your power! The days were sunny, and the bread was unusually fragrant and tasty. I understand only now how I have become attached to this city, how I fear not only for myself and my loved ones, but for the theater, the streets, the house where my beloved lived, where I was happy and unhappy, our main building, on the steps of which he was waiting. I see these places and days now as if I were full of love, the world smiled back at me along with every passerby. It is impossible to think that these streets are threatened with destruction, because without them I will not be me.

It is not clear how "those on the other side" do not see that we cannot reconcile ourselves, cannot give up, that we will not give up what is so dear to us. Our strength is in our love for the city and all those who lived and died here, and not only in hatred for the enemy. This is mine: the sea, parks, a cemetery, flowers and cafes, yard cats.

Third party observation: No one says more nonsense than professional experts; you can let everyone "on the soapbox."

72 hours. Surrounding.

Our dependence on the media is amazing, although I myself have written extensively about it. What would we know if the connection was broken? I think there would be more panic. Now we can clearly see on the screen that everything works, everything is in place. It is only fools and provocateurs who sow panic. Are there more fools or provocateurs? The issue requires further research. In the queue that instantly appeared at pharmacies and shops, an aunt broadcasts: “Well, this is all for a long time. THEY have finished their mask project and now they are starting THIS.” We must pay tribute to our residents of Odesa -- everywhere there is order and emphasized politeness, so no one answered the old fool, they just turned away. Many people are sick and flawed, but this is not news.

For a couple of Zooms, only one girl came and was obviously not in better condition than I. The rest disappeared and did not respond to emails. Colleagues say the same thing: the students are not ready to study, many have left, and the situation there is even worse or there is no Internet. And some are already digging trenches and volunteering. 

The management arranged a "meeting of the labor collective,” and a discussion broke out about whether to study or not to study. I did not think that it would be so hot; many took the idea of studying as an insult. But in principle, I am for studying, while, of course, adapting to realities, but we must get in touch with the students, even if one person just wants to talk or be distracted from thinking about what is happening.

That doesn't stop me from helping everyone I can get my hands on. That's when I bitterly regretted not having a car! Volunteers are beautiful, but I can only organize and give money! On the third day of the war, in my department, five people actively joined; from the rest there was neither a rumor nor a spirit. And that's nothing. The dean said that the students wrote, asking the administration to protect them from the anti-Ukrainian comments that one professor made right in the classroom (apparently on the first day of the war). And the most disgusting of all is that some of the other faculty, who are smarter, do not say anything themselves, but hint: we are professors, we must strictly go about our business and not express any political views. One would like to ask them: What can you teach students? Do you have something within your soul that allows you to be teachers and mentors? Everything that has been smoldering latently since 2013 has now come out for everyone to see. Let them be a small minority, but there they are: lovers of the "Russian world" in Odesa.

Third-party observation: The war manifests everything in the sharpest form. A fool becomes an idiot, Russophiles become traitors, and in myself I found extreme agitation, as if I were a cauldron that was about to explode if the steam was not let out. And so I'll keep volunteering and writing, writing...

University student, Odesa, age 21. March 1

I live in Odesa, the seaside city in the south. It is one of the safest places in Ukraine right now. Nevertheless, people are preparing to defend the city: locals are enrolling in Territorial Defense units and providing the armed forces with food supplies, clothes, medicines. 

I feel a big tragedy (not love) in the air. I hate Putin and all Russians responsible for this. On the other hand, I feel a surge of pride for my nation.

I was born in Avdiivka, Donetsk oblast. I suffered from all the horrors of the war since 2014. I feel pity that an 8-year Ukrainian-Russian war and more than 14,000 casualties failed to prevent this bloodshed in 2022. Literally three days before the invasion I felt that something would happen soon. Given the US intelligence data, the Ukrainian government and people were aware of Putin's despicable plans. 

I would like everybody to realize the scale of the tragedy. My people are dying. While I am writing this email, a great number of people not only defend my country, but die for it. I don’t feel good when I have tea with biscuits while knowing that my friends are holding guns.  

Russian soldiers are not people, they are monsters. They say they have to obey orders, but there is no excuse for any orders that aim at killing innocent people (not of strategic importance), children (16 deaths), shelling ambulances with injured civilians, after killing soldiers who are on their own land, who cannot lay down their arms, because they were born on this very land. Russians fire rockets and vacuum bombs. They are not shelling military infrastructure as they claim – liars! They are shelling hospitals, private houses, kindergartens, and residential buildings. When they try to occupy Ukrainian villages, towns, and cities, local people are full of determination to stop military vehicles with their bare hands while singing the national anthem and waving Ukrainian flags. 

Ukrainians do not want to be saved by Russia. We were free, we are free, and we will be free. We were allowed to speak both the Ukrainian language and the Russian language. 

I want you to publish the truth (but quite often the truth does not coincide with economic interests). I think it is easy and fair, isn't it?

Ukraine asks the USA to close the sky. So do I. We appreciate help from the US. Unfortunately, we would not be capable of defending our land without your numerous arms supply. 

In my opinion, the western media should be posting photos of our destroyed cities, photos of our soldiers and civilians. Of course, I would like to see my president on the front page, and indeed he was on them. 

Actually, I am grateful to each country for the ammunition supply and large amounts of dollars and euros. Yeah, I would like Western media to publish that Ukraininians appreciate all the financial help. We want to be able to cover our needs by ourselves, but it was hard to do that before the war and I hope it will be much more probable after the war. 

I used to think that there was something wrong with Ukraininas as Western countries did not want us in the EU and NATO. I am proud to be a Ukrainian now. I am proud of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I cannot imagine how brave and fearless a person must be to resist the Russian monsters. 

Glory to Ukraine! 

Aliona D, from Mykolaiv, age 40. March 1

My name is Aliona. I'm 40 years old, and in the last 6 days, I've become homeless and jobless. 

It all started at 4:32 am on February 24 when my family was woken up by a series of loud and powerful explosions. We felt as if the world was ending. Later we found out that the Russians bombed the Kulbakino Military Airport nearby, as well as many other military objects that morning. 

The next day, we didn't really understand what we were supposed to do. I even thought of going to work or holding classes online. To feel normal, people wanted to keep doing normal things. My 8-year-old son's primary school teacher even held a couple of online classes. But there was no more normal for any of us in Ukraine. 

The next 24 hours were quiet and we almost relaxed. But suddenly I got a call from my husband that I had to leave the house immediately, as there was a car waiting to take us out of Mykolayiv. That day, real war came there, with bombs and shooting. My son and I are now in Kropyvnytskyi, where it has been relatively safe for the past few days. But today air raids started here too. We go down to the shelter when that happens and sit in cold and fear. 

You should ask your governments to declare Putin an international terrorist because bombing civilians is against all laws of war. He should be caught and prosecuted as a criminal. Ukrainian airspace should be closed. The sanctions against Russians must be deadly.

What sticks out in my mind are the moments when the Ukrainian Army managed to defeat the bloody fuckfaces in Mykolayiv, Kherson, Kropyvnytskyi, and other places. Also, how we manage to find strength in laughter. There are dozens of really funny stories and memes happening every day, like people stealing a Russian tank. 

Another thing you could ask your governments is to send military supplies here because everything is running out – tanks, planes, radios, bullet-proof vests, etc. There will be crises around food and medicine soon. The cities under siege have no food supplies. The hospitals are full of the wounded and they are unable to treat civilians.

Anastasia, from Odesa, age 29. February 28

I'm going to be 30 on Saturday, if I make it.

My country has been under attack by Russia since February 24th.

Odesa has been bombed from the sky approximately 5 or 6 times over the past few days. There is information about a possible invasion from the sea. However, I believe in our military’s defense.

It is difficult to describe what I feel right now. Anger, fear, hysteria. My mood changes 10 times a day. I even have the strangest thoughts about my dead relatives. I thank God my grandmothers passed away before all of this happened. They both survived WW2 and the Romanian occupation. This war would have hurt them badly.

I was deeply shocked by bombing early in the morning. It resembles the German invasion. I read about it in books. I never thought I would experience that.

The Western media needs to reflect real information about our war, which is possible through war correspondents and journalists.

We have already felt the support from around the world. I hope Western countries will continue giving us military supplies, and that they will restrict Russia until the end.

Ukrainians are together. I`ve never felt such togetherness as I do today. I pray for our military forces. I believe Ukrainians are going to win and be free again!

Lyubov K, IT engineer from Ternopil, age 33. February 27

I’m staying in Ternopil city. It’s safe here. No fights or bombarding. But there could be some saboteurs to provoke actions. We hear a siren several times a day, which sends us running to the shelter.

I’m shocked and scared. I still can’t believe the war is happening right now. I really don’t know what to do next – that’s why I’m frustrated. I may lose everything I’ve been working for. I’m looking for answers. But right now I’m thinking about how to protect myself and my family and friends.

How could this be possible in the 21st century?! Is it a nightmare? Will it disappear when I wake up?

Russia didn’t have any right to cross the Ukrainian border and do “demilitarization,” no matter what conflicts they are solving with NATO. Ukrainians I know, family, friends and myself – we didn’t ask them to rescue us. We are proud of our country, of the direction we chose, and we understand all the problems that we have in Ukraine. But we don’t need any Russian protection. At the same time, I’m disappointed in Europe, NATO, the USA and the UK. They didn’t protect us according to the Budapest Memorandum. We gave up our nuclear weapons so that we could be protected by the USA and the UK.

Your government should stop Putin today. How? Make a diplomatic agreement with real sanctions, not words. Stop working with Russia. This country should be cut out from the world from all directions and should not have the ability to continue the war. They should understand the consequences of their actions. If our government asks for help, send us your troops and weapons to protect ourselves and deactivate the enemy on our territory.

There are too many lies in US news. Photos and videos are taken from previous wars and events. Use only facts and actual content. Ask why NATO, the US, and Europe why they are doing nothing.

It’s not a Ukrainian war. It’s a Russia - NATO war. Putin’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine should be allowed to happen without real consequences. No country should have any business with Russia after what he did.

Hanna R, from Mykolaiv, age 46. February 27

I am in Mykolaiv. It is quiet right now, but some hours ago we had an air raid alert. According to the information from our authorities, there may be some groups of Russian soldiers in our town. Yesterday a group of tanks got into the central part of Mykolaiv. They shot at one of our shopping malls - why the shopping mall? We don't know!

The day before yesterday we heard sound of a plane, then - the sound of bombing. We were lying on the floor in the flat. Actually, we are lying or sitting on the floor as far as possible from the windows right now. My cat is lying next to me.

How am I feeling? Day one, Thursday - I was shocked, scared, and cried from time to time. I had just one thing which I repeated in my head again and again: Russians, what did we do to you? Why do you want to kill us?

Day two was worse. I got information that the Russians are bombing Kyiv, Kharkiv, other towns and cities... I cried a lot that day.

Yesterday I felt a bit better. The thing is that I was in Luhansk, a town in the Donbas, in 2014. I realized that my experience can help people. I tried to support some of my friends here in Mykolaiv. They were lost, scared, distracted, they were in a panic. I spent a lot of time talking to them on the phone, or sending messages, giving advice, telling them what to do, saying something funny.

As for today, I am feeling that I hate them - those who came on my land to kill us and our kids. And I'm reading about the support that people around the world give us - and I am really grateful to them. I hope so much that we are not alone.

I want Western audiences to know that we are on our land and we are fighting for our land. We didn't start this war. Russians came onto our land. We didn't come to theirs. We just want to be free, to be part of the European community - and they are bombing us for this! It’s nonsense that this is happening now, in the 21st century, in a European country - Ukraine. Isn't this horrible?

We need your help, really!

Yesterday, I signed a petition to NATO to close our sky. I want your governments to realize that if we don't stop Putin together, he will go further... he won't stop. Putin is the Hitler of today. And it isn't a metaphor, it's true!

Maybe publish more photos of what is really going on here... the scared eyes of children... the results of bombing our places... just information that we didn't attack anyone – we just want to live on our land. And, of course, we don't want to ask Putin how we should live and what we should do. They are killing our children. They are killing our young men! They are killing our people. Help us to stop them, please!

Moments that stick out in my mind... the eyes of my six-year-old students who were looking at me. I had online classes with them on the first day of the war, and it was really hard to smile at them. They showed me their favorite toys and told me about them, and then, all together shouted: Glory to Ukraine!

I have had phone calls from my friends all around Ukraine - each time we talk, we say "I love you.” Any of our talks could be the last one, you see... my pupils' parents send me messages saying "I love you"...

And sometimes I receive messages from my Russian relatives! Something like “don't worry, just two or three days - and Putin will help you!” I can't answer them. It hurts! Their position kills, but they don't understand!

Anatoliy S, sales manager, Bucha city, Kyiv oblast. February 26

In the city of Bucha, Kyiv region, fighting continues for the Antonov International Airfield, located in the neighboring village of Hostomel. Now we are in the basement of a ten-story building, which is equipped as a temporary shelter. It's pretty cold and damp here. Outside, shells explode, although the airport itself is about 8 kilometers from our house.

Today, at about lunchtime, they said on social media that the village of Balanovka near Hostomel was completely destroyed. And that is only 4 kilometers away from our house. This explains why the explosions became louder.

All day, there was a battle in this area, with small arms, rocket and cannon artillery, and aviation. There was a lot of black smoke. In the morning, the sounds of helicopter attacks were heard again. A video was posted on social media showing that these were KA-52 attack helicopters.

We have already lost count of how many times these helicopters flew there. As soon as they say on social media that Hostomel has come under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the sounds of battle subside, then after a while helicopters arrive again, fire, land troops, fly away, and everything starts all over again.

This morning, a friend of our neighbor came to our shelter. He lived in the center of Bucha. He said that yesterday a shell hit one of the houses in the center. He did not want to take any more risks, so he came to us, since it’s calmer here.

If we were to briefly describe the events of these three days, we constantly hear the sounds of shelling, shooting, and bombing. On social media they write that the Russian military fired at Vorzel on February 25, 2022, hit an orphanage, and that many were wounded. On social media, the city hospital asked local residents to bring them food, as there was nothing to feed the sick.

In Bucha, a Russian sabotage group broke into the Park Town residential complex at the exit from Bucha, changed into civilian clothes and left towards Kyiv.

On February 25, 2022, in the evening, in the Viber chat for the residents of our house, they reported that Russian RSGs (reconnaissance and sabotage groups) were working in Bucha. That we need to lock ourselves in the basement, as an enemy landing is expected in the middle of the night or closer to the morning. It is necessary to turn off the lights in the courtyard of the house, as well as in all windows, as bright lighting can serve as an excuse for the bombing of the house. And you need to check the roofs of houses for marks with fluorescent paint, since such marks serve as markers for the Russian military. And these marks are placed by saboteurs dressed in civilian clothes. They also said that there are many enemy soldiers disguised as civilians in the city, who run away after the battle with the forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Bridges have been destroyed along the main roads. We cannot get to Kyiv or Zhytomyr. They say you can go to Bila Tserkiv, by back roads. But there is a traffic jam. Russian soldiers are everywhere. They even shoot civilian cars. Fuel for cars is almost nowhere to be found. Bread in the city also ended yesterday. On February 26, local authorities ordered grocery stores to reopen as people began to run out of food. It is now 23:10, February 26. On social media, residents of Kyiv were warned that now the city will be shelled with everything that the Russian military has. The sounds of explosions near us have become more frequent. I can only assume that these are outgoing shots of enemy artillery, and it is somewhere nearby, which means their troops are moving closer.

This is another problem – the lack of information. On February 25 at about 4pm, our neighbor suggested that we should leave in her friend's car. He was allegedly somewhere in Western Ukraine on vacation when the hostilities began. But his car was on the outskirts of Bucha, closer to Hostomel, and was filled with about 20 liters of fuel. At first we were delighted. I thought that I could get there and pick up the car. We started planning our departure and packing. We decided to leave in the morning, as there was little time left before dark, and if I had managed to pick up the car, then we could leave at 8 pm. But we would not have advanced far –at 22:00 we would have to stop, as there is a curfew, and according to rumors, there are big traffic jams on the way and all the traffic stops at night.

But when we left to pack, we saw a video on social media showing destroyed civilian vehicles and injured people at the exit between Bucha and Hostomel, near the Fora store. Our joy immediately ended, since our future car was in that area and the chances of picking it up became very low. Later, we learned that there were battles in this area. It seems that the Russian army is restoring a bridge towards Kyiv there and they are trying by any means to keep the Varshavska highway. After waiting out the night from the 25th to the 26th, we decided to stay, as it was already very dangerous to leave.

How do I feel...Very tired from insomnia. At first I could not believe what was happening, although we had been expecting this for a very long time, but I still hoped until the very end that this would not happen.

On February 24 around 5:40, my girlfriend woke me up and said rocket attacks had begun at all airfields in the country. At first there was panic, the next day it turned into anxiety, now mostly fear and fatigue. We are constantly waiting for Russian troops to bomb the city.

The most vivid moments I remember were the huge queues at supermarkets and ATMs.

February 24 at 9:00 am, the saleswoman of the meat department of the local supermarket was at a loss as to why everyone was nervous and why there was such a long line, until she was told that the war had begun.

Around 10:00 or 11:00am, we went to the water pump next to our house for water. Then, for the first time, we heard the roar of a huge number of helicopters of the Russian army, and they began an air raid. We were at a loss, because Antonov Airport is considered civilian and not military. Why would they attack it? About an hour later, SU-25 attack aircrafts began to fly. We could not determine whether they were ours or Russian, and what they were bombing. We were afraid that they would bomb everything.

I want Western audiences to know that the Russian army is now carrying out terror and war crimes against civilians. They bomb houses, kindergartens, schools. There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and throughout Ukraine. The Armed Forces of Ukraine, heroically sacrificing their lives, rebuff the joint groupings of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus - which are ten times superior numerically and technically. Someone should record all the crimes against humankind and humanity.

I would like you to ask the representatives of your government to help Ukraine first with weapons as soon as possible. If our defenders had a sufficient number of portable and stationary air defense systems, they could easily repel the attack helicopters of the Russian Federation. They would not have to constantly beat back the airfield, losing their lives in repeated air raids. Ask the representatives of your government to help create humanitarian corridors so that all peaceful civilians, women and children, can be evacuated from the hottest spots. And ask your authorities to make the sky over Ukraine closed to Russian aviation. Please hurry up, it’s a matter of hours for us.

I can also add: #clearUAsky #Russianmilitaryshipidinahuy

Glory to Ukraine!

Carolina, from Odesa oblast, age 21. February 26

First of all, I moved from Italy to Ukraine two months ago as soon as I heard the news of a probable Russian invasion. I abandoned everything I had in Italy to be with my homeland and my people.

On 23 February, I left my city of Odesa to go to the enlistment office. I wanted to join the territorial defense and therefore had to meet several requirements to get the military ticket. 

In the morning, I woke up to the news that the war had begun. It was horrible. It seemed like a bad nightmare from which I still can't wake up.  I did not join the territorial defense in the end because I don't even know how to hold a rifle in hand. If I had military preparation and minimum skills with the rifle, I would be in the city protecting my land, but in my condition I could only cause problems for the Ukrainian army.  

I would very much like to say that the village in which I am now is safe and that there is nothing that threatens our serenity, but this is not the case. We are on the border with Transnistria (about 7 kilometers away) which, as you most likely know, hosts a Russian military base. Last night, some individuals tried to violate the Ukrainian border but were stopped. We expect that they will send Russian tanks in this direction, but we have a plan to block the road in case they arrive. This will be enough to slow them down and warn our military.  

I am 21 years old and I am living a nightmare that I never expected to live. I am young and now on a Saturday night I should be at the disco with my peers having fun. It is absurd – a war in the heart of Europe in 2022. We have proof that we did not learn anything from history. 

What am I doing now? I am trying to inform my Italian followers on instagram, share the real news with them, and explain the ways they can help us. My university colleagues are collecting basic necessities to send to Ukraine, and others are sending money to Ukrainian funds.

I want the whole Western world to realize that the Ukrainian army is fighting against an army that is one of the strongest in the world. We are showing that we are strong and united and I think we deserve a place in NATO and the European Union. 

Russia is hitting civilians. Today they hit an ambulance carrying an injured person... These are the crimes against the Ukrainian people that no one here will forget! No child in the world should ever have to be afraid of falling asleep at night. There is no peace. I am worried about my friends and family sleeping in shelters. You cannot imagine what it means to receive the message "if something happens, I want you to know that I love you." 

Every night seems like the last. We don’t know what to expect from that killer Putin. But in the morning, we wake up, see the clear sky and we feel like crying and we are infinitely grateful to our army.  It is scary when your loved one sends you audio with sirens and cries. 

My life has changed forever. I am trying to do everything that is in my power to do: I help the army financially, I try to inform the Italians and share the true facts with them and I ask them to mobilize and participate in the protests. Shelter our sky and cut Russia out of SWIFT! Implement more sanctions, specifically against Putin.  

If you study Ukrainian history, in all these centuries, we have never attacked anyone, we are a peaceful nation but if needed we will give our lives to defend our borders.  We remember well the genocide of Ukrainians in the years 1932-1933. Russia killed millions of Ukrainians. We remember well how Russia eliminated our intellectual elite who defended the Ukrainian language during the Soviet regime. We remember the 1960s when Russia eliminated our authors and painters who wanted independence from the Soviet regime. We remember how Russian snipers eliminated our brothers in Maidan in Kyiv during the protests in 2014. We remember the annexed territories and thousands of our men killed. And we will never forget February 24 and the days that have followed. 

I want to thank all the people who are close to us at this moment. We hear you and see you. Make yourself heard – you are our voice! You can help us by donating money for the army or other organizations. Contact the Ukrainian embassies or the local Ukrainian community and ask how you can ship basic necessities here. Unity is strength, together we will put an end to Putin's regime of terror. Slava Ukraini! 

Violetta D, uni teacher and tour guide, Odesa, age 39. February 26

February 24, 5:00-5:30 am. 5-6 explosions – people from all the districts of the city woke up.

The first day of the Russian invasion. People were trying to fuel their cars, there were big lines. 

The first night was rather calm. Many people volunteered to go to the local defense center.

February 25 was rather calm in the city, but we got sad news from our friends and relatives from other cities. My sister and niece in Kyiv were sitting in a cellar.

In the evening, the city center and port were attacked, but the air defense system was functioning. 

The night was rather calm. But I slept only two hours. 

In my private house we were sleeping with my son on the floor in the lobby.

February 26 was rather calm. At 2:30-2:40pm there was one explosion. Tonight we will sleep in our beds, because we're physically exhausted. 

All the people who stayed in the city are very courageous. Nobody wants Russians in our Ukraine. Even my Russian friends and neighbors who have lived all of their lives in Ukraine say they don't want Russia here.

I feel a lot of anger. Although I am 1.59 meters tall and weigh 50 kilos, I feel that I could kill any bastard here, even without weapons, to protect my family.

Every second of these days remains in my mind. I'm very proud of our soldiers. Many people from all over the world have offered their help. I'm a tour guide, so I have some contacts abroad. 

I want your audience to know that Ukraine today is the last line of defense between the civilized world and the Russian barbarians with the insane leader. And this is not only our war. This is everyone's war. Russian propaganda lies to its people and to the world. Many of my Russian friends who live in Russia are very frightened and are like hostages of their government.

Please, ask all the governments to give us weapons (our army is strong like never before), ban Russia from SWIFT, lock all the funds of Russian leaders and businessmen.

This is our land and we will not give up! 

Artyom, tour guide from Odesa, age 35. February 26

Three days ago l woke up in my city. It was 5 am. And I heard the noise of a siren. My city was under attack. It was a shock. WAR!!!

There was no panic. I understand this is the end for Russia... their mad dictator is now like Hitler in 1939. 

But can we stand strong? Now I know the answer. With the help of Allies we can!

Today there was a siren three times. We still stand!

All I want now is a new Nuremberg Trial for Putin and his puppets. 

Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!

Tell your government to close the sky above Ukraine...

Dmytro, age 35. February 26

My hometown is Luhansk. It has been occupied by the Russian Federation for 8 years. I had to flee to Kyiv back in 2014. And if we talk about the current situation in Kyiv, it's very hard. 

We woke up at 4AM on February 24th to read the news (it became a habit to read the news at night) and at 5AM we heard explosions. I knew Russia had to be doing that, and yet I couldn't believe it was happening. We had to grab some stuff — we had one bag with documents and money ready, but no clothes, laptops, etc.) and cat food (our cat is the main reason we hadn’t moved earlier. She hadn't gotten vaccines recently enough to have documents). I don't have a car and that was a huge obstacle, but my friend has 3 seats, so I went with him. I'm not sure if he saved my life but I really feel that way. 

There was a huge amount of traffic as we moved to the West. After the first wave of panic, we understood it wasn't a rocket strike, but our anti-air defense working. Afterwards we started to find out that real rocket strikes had reached their target. I was scared because the border with Belarus is huge. They could attack and it could be breached from some directions. I don’t really know how many aircrafts could breach and bomb our bases. I had real confidence in our army but understood that Russia has 190k troops. Our guys stand as real heroes. 

Afterwards we read about artillery strikes. Friends from all over Ukraine (Odesa, Kharkiv, Kyiv) started to share news. I was shocked by the scale and insolence. Currently, there have been massive artillery strikes, rocket strikes that hit civilian buildings, tanks that breached the city (our forces cleaned them up) and there are troops in disguises, so there has been a massive shootout within the city. 

How do I feel? It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes I have no feelings at all, fully exhausted, with a sense of deja-vu from 2014. Sometimes I feel pure hate. I want those who brought war and guns to be killed. Sometimes I'm scared. Not because of the invasion, but with the fact it is possible to openly attack a European country in 2022. That the US and EU could only share their concerns about the situation for 8 years, while part of our territory was already occupied. That there would be more documents like the Budapest Memorandum with less than 0 usefulness.  The fact that I had to wake up my daughter and couldn't promise that her snails would be OK once we get back from the trip. They might, or they might not. That I need to laugh at her jokes to brighten her mood and simultaneously read that some of our soldiers died. That there would be no consequences for the death of Ukrainians. 

I feel the joy of seeing news about dead occupants and that our soldiers stand. That they fear for their lives closer to night. I constantly worry about my friends who stayed. 

What do I want from the West? To know that we have already had war for 8 years. I want them to know we suffer for the aspiration to become a fully-democratic liberal country, to have the ability to develop, to have control over our politicians, so they will finally understand that they are not an aristocracy but managers. That we have the full right to have our language, our culture. 

At the same time, I want you to know that the time of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, ballet, and gymnastics in Russia has passed and actually, never really was. That's a country filled with propaganda and therefore fakes, hate, and the wish for others to live worse. The wish to say that we could kill you anytime. The country which hates itself but hates others even worse. Blaming everyone else for their own fears. I want you to know that this started not 3 days ago, not 8 years ago, but much earlier. We had our language canceled, our poets killed. Don't try to calm Russia down — our people need protection from it! 

You must know that Ukraine is fighting for peace and its future, so that our kids can be scientists, or poets, or architects. The situation is hard. We are standing but we need not words, but deeds. Kick Russia out of SWIFT, send us weapons and medical aid. Help our economy once we win. That's not a matter of city or country, but of Europe and the world. There shouldn't be war in 2022. No people should die because of a bastard with a Tsar complex, because of stupid-ass laughable propaganda. There should be a powerful lesson for Russia and countries that will imitate it in future. Please, stand for us as we stand for you. 

Putin is not only killing our citizens. There are 190,000 troops [on] our borders, there are massive propaganda machines with a lot of people saying "there are nationalists in Ukraine, we must kill all of them and take our lands back.” Ha-ha, please, grab a history book and learn when Kyiv was founded and when Moscow was, and by who. 

Lastly, I, a half-Russian, Russian-speaker from Luhansk, Putin's perfect primary audience, could honestly say: Vladimir Vladimirovich, go fuck yourself. Fuck you and thank you for your help to unite our nation, so it could wake up and find out that there is no Soviet Union anymore. From now on, we will live our own way. 

Tetiana U, teacher from Kyiv. February 26

My first language is Russian and my second is Ukrainian. Putin says he is protecting Russian speaking people in Ukraine from the Ukrainian junta (he means our legislative government). 

How he is protecting us by bombing the city?

On February 23rd, Russia celebrated the day of the Soviet Army. On the 24th, early in the morning, after 4am, we were woken by the sounds of weapons. The Russian army started hitting our cities and towns from many sides. Their troops broke our borders from Belarus, Crimea, Transnistria, and the territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. 

I live in Kyiv. Every day our army and civil citizens are trying to protect the city from Russian weapons and groups of saboteurs (in fact terrorists who were parachuted from military helicopters). 

We run to bomb shelters or metro stations to hide. Sometimes, we spend nights there with children and pets. 

This morning two rockets hit a multistory building and a smaller building, causing destruction and fires there. Some people died.

There were fights in some neighborhoods of Kyiv. They want to take strategically important spots and make the government surrender. 

Most product shops and chemists are closed. You cannot call an ambulance if you are sick and so on. 

Before, I was in shock, my heart raced, and I panicked. Now I'm already thinking clearly, ready to run to the shelter. We have been warned not to go out till Monday because it's dangerous and it can cause problems for our army fighting in the streets. 

The Russian leader is sick-minded and dangerous like a maniac. It's impossible to negotiate with him or trust him. I cry when I read about the sacrifices of our people protecting our Motherland. The guy who exploded himself along with the bridge to prevent the invader from crossing. My cousin in Lviv, who said “I can't run away to hide in the village, I am responsible for electricity supplies in the city. People are sending money for the army, giving blood for the wounded, and fighting with Molotov cocktails against Russian soldiers.” 

I want Western audiences to know that this is a real war, and Ukraine didn’t start it or provoke it. Putin is dangerous for Europe and absolutely not trustworthy. You must not believe anything he says. Anything! I am a Russian-speaker. I have never had any problems using this language or having a Russian father. I feel Ukrainian and I love my country and its traditions and culture. I don't need fucking protection with Russian guns! 

Your mass media should show the beauty of Ukrainian towns and the destruction and victims killed by the Russian army. Write how ordinary people fight to protect their homes. And write "Putin, go to hell" -- the truth would be even ruder. 

Putin tells the world and the Russians that he is saving us from our illegal, fascist government — that our people across Ukraine wouldn’t fight for it. They want national patriots to be defeated and people to welcome his tanks with flowers. No way!

If the Russian army takes control of Ukraine, they will kill and put our patriots in prison, prohibit our culture while saying they are protecting it, suck our resources like vampires, and control our country in the same way they control the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. And they will become your neighbors! 

 

Yan K, university student from Odesa, age 21. February 25

I live in Odesa. I was awakened by the phrase of my dad: “Kyiv is bombed.” I was very afraid. We were thinking about running to Moldova, but bit by bit we started to acknowledge that our army is doing unbelievably well and we decided to stay. Now we are proud of our city, our country, our army, people and president. 

The first day was noisy with many missiles, but our air defense shot them down. Now it is quite calm. Many saboteurs, but they are killed very fast.

Our people are dying – Russian troops are striking civilian objects with missiles. Today one missile got into kindergarten, and one child got killed. Putin is Hitler of our time. Russian troops don’t have good armor – they are here just to get filled with bullets. 

Western governments should cut off Russia from SWIFT, please. We need more sanctions, more weapons, more money.

Stay with Ukraine. We won’t fall. Russia’s aggression will be stopped. 

Kharkiv is the Stalingrad of the 21st century. Saboteurs in Kyiv are killed by Obolon street bullies. Russian forces tried to invade Mariupol two times today and 50+ tanks of Russia have been destroyed. Overall, more than 4,000 Russian troops have been killed during these two days. Our people are courageous and the 24th of February was the day when the Ukrainian nation was born completely. Stay connected.

English teacher from Odesa, age 21. February 25

Odesa. Rockets hit at 05:00 am on Feb 24. Silent until late afternoon when we had several more explosions.

Then it was silent in the city up until evening Feb 25.

The beaches were reinforced with landmines.

People are panicking, buying groceries for the week expecting to be isolated in their homes. Every ten minutes or so people can be seen leaving their apartment houses with packed cases driving away in their cars.

My feelings are mixed but calm as a whole. There is some bumping between confidence in the army and fear of the bandits, but the Ukrainian spirit is strong together and seeing hundreds of volunteers and thousands of people signing into local defense forces shows us that the war is not as simple as “big guns take cities.”

I probably won't forget waking up in the night to the flashes seen across Odesa anytime soon. Mistaking them for ordinary lights and then hearing the sound of rocket explosions as I was falling asleep... it is impossible to describe it. I have never heard anything similar in my life. Hearing them in person changes your perspective drastically, and seeing the light from them makes your heart rush like never before.

The Ukrainian people have been prepared to withstand far worse than this for eight years. The worst thing Russia has done so far are scary videos of Putin trying to look tough. Their bombs mean nothing to the strong men and women of Ukraine.

Banish Russia off the charts. Banish them from Europe. Banish them from Asia. There is a perfect region name for them and it's called Mordor.

Until the whole nation of Russia suffers; until every simple person in the Russian Federation sees the consequences of their state's rule; until every homeless man of Russia becomes homeless twice — Russians will keep tolerating their barbaric chieftains and will keep seeing them as holy pastors.

Putin huylo.

PR Manager from Kyiv, age 25. February 25

According to officials, there were a couple of small groups who entered Kyiv in Obolonskiy district. A Russian military vehicle ran over a civilian car with a driver inside who is alive thanks to a miracle. Some metro stations in the district were closed for entry and exit. The air raid siren roared dozens of times. 

I'm feeling proud of our Armed Forces and all of those people who support them. There are no words that could describe how grateful the Ukrainian people are to our heroes. Speaking for myself, I'm a little sick on the second day, but I'm trying to cope with it.

All I can think is this post-irony when a person who calls Ukrainians ”Nazis” is leading his country in the exact way Hitler led the Third Reich. Before the full-scale invasion, I had just finished the first part of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer and it is just 90% the same. Even the fake news to accuse Polish/Ukrainian people is almost identical. And what I think is that the world is making the same mistake it made with Hitler in Munich. He has to be stopped, otherwise, there will be more victims.

Ukrainian forces are fighting back. Russian forces are basically war criminals who shoot missiles into hospitals, kindergartens, orphanages; who dress themselves as Ukrainian soldiers to do diversions (thankfully unsuccessful as of now). And those war criminals have to be brought to justice along with their Supreme Commander in Chief and all of the military commanders. 

Also, please know that the Ukrainian people aren’t panicking. Yes, the Russian forces are using terror against civilians, but all of us trying to stay as calm as possible. Almost all of the local authorities are providing all of the usual services - transportation, cleaning, etc. I just saw a lady walking down the road near the metro station - like she probably does any other day. 

I want to answer all those people all over the world who write comments like "Why didn't Ukraine just negotiate with Putin?" There is a great quote which I can't remember precisely now, but it says something like: if you want to live and the other party wants to see you dead, there is no place for compromise. The Ukrainian people decided that we don't want to be part of the Russian sphere of influence, we don't want to turn our country into Belarus (I'm referring only to the Lukashenko regime) - we want to be a free democratic state. And Putin can't put up with it. So, I don't think there was any room for compromises or negotiating.

I want to ask all of the states to do whatever it takes to stop Putin and force him to fall back. This includes banning Russia from SWIFT, imposing diabolic sanctions, and military support for Ukraine. Because it's not only about Ukraine - if Putin isn’t stopped, it would be a clear signal that a nuclear state is free to attack a peaceful state without nuclear weapons, with basically no accountability for those who gave the orders. Sanctions don’t hold Putin accountable in these terms, because he doesn't care about Russian people and the economy, but sanctions are a great tool for limiting Russian resources for war. The Western media should be sharing photos and videos of Russian missiles hitting civilian objects, and sharing transcripts of videos where captured Russian soldiers are describing how they got to Ukraine and what they did there. It should debunk Russian fakes and all the bullshit they create.

Again, I urge the West to understand that now the choice is not between "help Ukraine and have a Third World War" and "ignore Ukraine and live a happy life.” It's like 1938-1939: the dictator won't stop until he is forced to fall back.

Julia B, anthropologist. February 25

(Originally posted on Facebook; reposted with permission.)

I would have never ever imagined myself saying this, but: I am grateful that my dearest father passed in 2020, and he isn’t here to witness how his birth country, Russia, is outrageously attacking the place he called his motherland, Ukraine.
 
I would have never ever imagined myself saying this, but: I am grateful that my beloved granny passed in December 2021. This loss is still so fresh and still hurting. But she is in the other, better world now. She survived the Nazi occupation in Kyiv during the WWII, and this war again, may have killed her.
 
My mother, me, and our cat are in Kyiv. Yesterday, which already seems like a week ago, I took my documents, money, a few things and photos, and a pen drive with all my work for the last 12 years and came to my mom's place. I've sent the manuscript of my book to my dear friend just in case. To preserve. 
 
My mother, me and the cat we've inherited from my granny spent last night in an underground car park nearby. We have been frozen there. But safe. Many people were there, with children and pets. At 3 a.m. when another wave of Russian bombing got started, we heard it so close. Poor cat was shaking. The dogs were screaming, and kids crying. But! The men were so brave, keeping themselves and calming women and kids. They were staying near the entrance to the car park, together as a chain, ready to face anything, even without any armaments. 
 
We went home at 7 a.m. Tried to sleep, but didn't succeed. I went for a walk nearby, and it was such a contrasting experience to see that blue pre-spring sky, sun there high and almost warm, listening to the birds singing and air alert sirens simultaneously. First green grass. Explosions somewhere to the north. Men staying near the district administration, calm and strict, saying that they will protect their home. From Russians. That was the first moment during those mad days when I felt tears in my eyes.
 
We will survive. I pray and hope for that.
 
I am overwhelmingly grateful for all those friends and colleagues writing me from all over the world, including those brave friends in Russia, who go out and protest against this war. My heart is melting because of the greatest support ever from Poland and Lithuania. Every person proposes to give us a shelter and host us, with the cat. That warms my heart. So good to know that there are you, who care. Perhaps, there will be a time again when we would be able again to talk about books read, and fieldwork conducted. 
 
Now we stay in Kyiv. My mother doesn't want to leave the city categorically, and I am with her.

Thank you for being for us. For helping us. For your prayers and empathy.
 
I have always been convinced that Love will save every person, and the world. My life started because of love, I live for love and from love. 
 
Sending my love for you.

About these posts

We've reached out to contacts in Ukraine to offer them a platform to share their experiences and viewpoints. For their safety, we are withholding their names. We would like to thank Lucy Minicozzi-Wheeland for initiating this project and collecting the majority of the accounts, as well as Erik Puzanov, an English teacher from Odesa, Ukraine, for help with the translation of these stories.

NAFSA Association of International Educators – Immigration resources for Ukrainians. 

European Commission – ERA4Ukraine. List of resources for Ukrainian refugees offered by countries across Europe. 

List of resources for BIPOC, LGBTQ+ Ukrainians and Ukrainians with disabilities or chronic illness, compiled by Kimberly St. Julian Varnon (contact: @ksvarnon on Twitter)

BetterPet list of pet rescue agencies in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland that can take in or otherwise support pets that are displaced or must be left behind. The guide is aimed at potential donors and volunteers in the West, but contains descriptions and links to the agencies themselves.

Learn English through ENGin Program, a nonprofit organization that matches Ukrainian youth 13-30 yrs old with English-speakers, 14+ yrs old, for free online conversation practice and cross-cultural connection.

Displaced and At-Risk Scholars

Non-Residential Fellowships in Support of Ukrainian Scholars: HURI is partnering with the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM, Vienna) to offer non-residential fellowships for Ukrainian scholars, cultural figures, and public intellectuals as part of the IWM’s longstanding Ukraine in European Dialogue program. These fellowships provide a one-time stipend of 5000 EUR to support recipients’ intellectual activities. Deadline: March 31, 2022.

Harvard's Scholars-at-Risk program: The Scholars at Risk (SAR) Program at Harvard is dedicated to helping scholars, artists, writers, and public intellectuals from around the world escape persecution and continue their work by providing  academic fellowships at Harvard University. If you have been affected by Russia's war on Ukraine or have an emergency case to be considered, please contact the program's director, Jane Unrue (unrue@fas.harvard.edu).

See also: Scholar-at-Risk's page of resources for students and scholars, which includes many links to other organizations and programs that can help.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Grants for Scholars at Risk Due to the Conflict In Ukraine: The grants are open to scholars active in any of the three areas of studies supported by Dumbarton Oaks: Byzantine Studies, Pre-Columbian Studies, and Garden and Landscape Studies. Eight grants of 5,000 USD each, (minus any applicable taxes), are available. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the exhaustion of the available funds.

Resources for Helping Displaced Scholars from Ukraine, compiled by ASEEES with the International Task Force for Displaced Scholars (contact: Lynda Park lypark@pitt.edu); includes links to organizations that might be good contacts for scholars seeking help.

New University in Exile Consortium – Consortium of universities committed to supporting persecuted and endangered students and scholars. 

Open Society University Network (OSUN) – Threatened Scholar Integration Initiative. Offers fellowships for threatened scholars at OSUN institutions. Contact TSI@opensocietyuniversitynetwork.org

Lviv Center of Urban History – List of Help for Scholars at Risk (in Ukrainian). 

University of New EuropeResource list for scholars and artists at risk

Ukrainian Scholar Placement Database – curated by Jadwiga Biskupska, Sam Houston State University. 

ArtMargins – Resource list for Ukrainian artists and scholars. 

Austrian Academy of Sciences – Researchers from Ukraine can now apply for research stays in Austria.

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences – Accommodation for Ukrainian scholars and their families. 

Volkswagen Foundation – Visiting research program for refugee Ukrainian scientists who are currently in Germany or who will arrive in Germany in the coming weeks. 

Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research – Individual grants for Ukrainian citizens with a doctoral degree to conduct research in Sweden in 2022. 

Université Libre De Bruxelles (ULB) – Emergency assistance to students, (post)doctoral students, academics, or administrative staff of universities who are fleeing Ukraine. 

Students

New University in Exile Consortium – Consortium of universities committed to supporting persecuted and endangered students and scholars. 

IIE Emergency Fund for Students from Ukrainian Students (US) – IIE member institutions may nominate up to 5 international students from Ukraine. Current IIE Network Members. 

UN Refugee Agency DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) – Refugee students can earn a bachelor’s degree in Germany. 

Special Student Relief (SSR), Department of Homeland Security – Suspension of certain regulatory requirements by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for an F‑1 student from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances.

Ukrainian Artists and Cultural Workers

Artists at Risk – Emergency resources for artists and cultural workers. 

University of New Europe – Resource list for scholars and artists at risk. 

ArtMargins – Resource list for Ukrainian artists and scholars. 

Data Preservation

HURI Data Preservation Assistance: Contact Kostyantyn Bondarenko for information on saving archives and personal research data on our Sharepoint site (huri_it@fas.harvard.edu)

"Russia's War on Ukraine" Archive-It collection – preserves snapshots of websites with news about the war on Ukraine, important cultural and historical archives, and social media accounts. Contact HURI's archivist/ bibliographer Olha Aleksic oaleksic@fas.harvard.edu with suggestions for inclusion.

Saving Ukrainian Heritage Online - Use this form to submit links to digital collections of Ukrainian museums, libraries, archives and any other cultural institution which has digitised cultural heritage.

The American Folklore Society is assisting folklorists and heritage scholars in Ukraine with data rescue. Use this form to request assistance.

Data Rescue for music collections in Ukraine

Article 26 Backpack at University of California Davis – provides digital storage of important academic documents for displaced scholars and students. 

Donate (select beneficiaries) 

forPeace

forPEACE's Ukraine Relief Project supports existing organic Ukrainian supply chains and provides the essential link between generous foreign aid and the speed and nuanced insight of on the ground all-Ukrainian networks. It draws on local expertise and funds local efforts to ensure the right aid gets to where it is most needed.

World Central Kitchen 

WCK provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises. They build resilient food systems with locally led solutions. Their initiative #ChefsForUkraine is providing nearly 300,000 daily meals to people across Ukraine while continuing to expand their relief efforts in the country. 

Sunflowers for Peace

Sunflower of Peace Foundation is a Boston, USA-based non-profit organization. Their current mission is to support the people of Ukraine affected by the Russian military invasion. They collaborate with a global network of established organizations and institutions that are committed to helping Ukraine in this situation.

Come Back Alive 

Launched in 2014, Come Back Alive became the biggest organization providing support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They have received over 20 million dollars from 50 countries. Come Back Alive is also fully transparent and offers open financial reporting on their website. 

Support Ukraine NOW

Support Ukraine NOW is raising funds to purchase 100 bulletproof vests for Ukrainian frontline civilian defenders and volunteers through the website Open Collective Europe. Their fundraiser contains a list of FAQs, open financial reporting, etc. 

Razom for Ukraine

Razom was founded after the Revolution of Dignity, or Maidan, in 2014. Their mission is to help accelerate their individual and collective contributions through projects that unlock Ukraine’s potential and build toward a more prosperous, democratic nation. They are responding to the war by providing critical humanitarian war relief and recovery depending on the most urgent needs. They have detailed lists on their website of what they are focused on delivering, including tactical medicine items, hospital supplies, etc. 

Ukrainian Armed Forces (National Bank of Ukraine)

The National Bank of Ukraine has decided to open a special fundraising account to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The central bank’s decision comes after the Ukrainian government imposed martial law throughout Ukraine in response to armed aggression by Russia and the renewed threat to Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. The account is accepting donations from multiple currencies, including U.S. dollars, euros and British pounds. 

Recipe for Independence Foundation (Poland)

Recipe for Independence provides food at refugee shelters and delivers welcome packs to women and children with essential items at entry centers. The most important long-term programs are for children. They are aimed at preventing the effects of war trauma and helping them integrate into life in Poland. Workshops focus on care, fun, and openness and include sports, language classes, building connections, and more.

Someone Prays for You

“Someone Prays for You” is a collaborative photo series by Ukrainian-Canadian artist Taras Polataiko, which showcases the works of elderly Ukrainians from the city of Chernivtsi. Elderly Ukrainians are volunteering their art (embroideries, ceramics) to be photographed as part of a fundraiser for civilian defenders on the front lines. Proceeds of the prints will go to both the needs of civilian defenders, as well as the elderly artists who volunteered their works.

Support Ukrainian Media

Donate to The Kyiv Independent to keep the curtains up for the independent Ukrainian English-language journalism: PatreonGoFundMe

Independent Ukrainian Media Outlets GoFundMe: Run by a consortium of The Fix, Are We Europe, Jnomics and the Media Development Foundation, as well as multiple media partners from across Europe. They are working with a growing list of Ukrainian media, including Ukrainska PravdaZaboronaDetector Media and others. Support is allocated based on urgency of needs in the first place, then distributed proportionally. 

Internews supports independent media in Ukraine. During the war, they have:

  • Procured more than 100 journalist safety kits (flak jackets, first aid supplies)
  • Provided funds to relocate dozens of journalists and media support staff to safer locations
  • Offered practical digital security support and guidance to help media and civil society cope with a massive increase in hacking, phishing, and DDOS attacks
  • Re-purposed their offices in Moldova and Lithuania to support refugee communication efforts and journalists operating remotely
  • Revised over 30 existing support projects for media production and processed around 20 emergency funds for struggling local newsrooms, including in occupied territories

You can donate to Internews to fund their support for Ukrainian media outlets, or you can follow the links on their website to donate or subscribe to vetted news sources directly.

Lists of places to donate and ways to help

Comprehensive list of ways foreigners can help (compiled by Global Shapers Community (born out of World Economic Forum) and supported by Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine).

Razom for Ukraine has an excellent list of ways you can help Ukraine and its people, including ways to donate, volunteer, and contact representatives for government support.

The Ukrainian Institute, London has also compiled a great list. 

Ways to help Ukrainian pets that are displaced or must be left behind by refugees, compiled by BetterPet.

Volunteer to help Ukrainian youth and young professionals learn English through ENGin Program, a nonprofit organization that matches Ukrainian youth 13-30 yrs old with English-speakers, 14+ yrs old, for free online conversation practice and cross-cultural connection.

Read and share factual information

Recommended news sources in English

Recommended news sources in Ukrainian

Internews recommends these local organizations for credible, current information on the latest attacks against media in Ukraine and disinformation about the conflict.

Data resources

ACAPS Ukraine Analysis Hub: They collect and analyze data to produce locally sourced, independent analysis of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine; includes interactive dashboard with data on infrastructure damages and humanitarian access in Ukraine

Twitter accounts to follow: News

Twitter accounts to follow: Scholars

Twitter accounts to follow: Academic centers

Take part in local action

Initiatives at Harvard / Universities

Non-Residential Fellowships in Support of Ukrainian Scholars: HURI is partnering with the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM, Vienna) to offer non-residential fellowships for Ukrainian scholars, cultural figures, and public intellectuals as part of the IWM’s longstanding Ukraine in European Dialogue program. These fellowships provide a one-time stipend of 5000 EUR to support recipients’ intellectual activities. We join IWM in inviting other institutions to join in this effort. 

We're working with Harvard students, administration, and other universities to organize support for scholars displaced from Ukraine and preservation of important historical and academic data. ASEEES has compiled a list of initiatives and organizations based on the work of the International Task Force for Displaced Scholars.

Harvard students who are Ukrainian or who would like to support Ukraine can join the Harvard Ukrainian Student Society facebook group and sign up to the Harvard Ukrainian Solidarity Alliance mailing list

You can donate to Harvard's Scholars at Risk program; we are working with them to assist scholars from Ukraine who want to temporarily relocate to an institution in the US.

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Media Inquiries

If you are a journalist or producer and would like to consult one of our experts on Ukraine or talk to us in regard to our events and projects, please email Kristina Conroy, communications manager, at kconroy@fas.harvard.edu.

Our Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program Director, Dr. Emily Channell-Justice (echannelljustice@fas.harvard.edu) is the point person for matters regarding the current crisis; you may contact her directly to arrange an interview.

You may also visit our People section to search for a scholar with specific expertise.

Ukraine-Related Events Compiled by ASEEES