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War and hope through the eyes of one Ukrainian

04 May 2022

Oleksandra Vytiaganets, a solicitor in DWF's Birmingham office shares her first hand experience of the war in Ukraine. She asks us to please stand with Ukraine during this difficult time and to keep donating as together we have the power to make a difference.

70 days of war, 70 days of our fearless struggle and indestructibility. For 70 days Ukraine has been fighting for independence, defending the values of democracy, freedom and humanity.

This war has been very personal for me. I am Ukrainian and I lived in Ukraine for the majority of my life. When the war started I called my Mum and told her to hold on. I said we would figure it out but I did not know what to do. She is alone, elderly, she has mobility problems and surviving a war for her is beyond difficult. After spending days and nights in a basement with the sound of air raid sirens constantly in her head, she finally agreed to leave her home.

A few days later my partner and I went to pick her up from Lviv, a city close to the Polish border. The perception of war from inside is very different. Not until I saw with my eyes masses of armed men and bomb shelter indicators everywhere, thousands of women and children fleeing the country have I realised how terrifying the war is and what damages it brings to our country and people's lives. 

My Mum had to pack all her life in one bag and leave her home with her cat in another bag. She took an evacuation train which went through Kyiv when it was bombed by the Russians. She told me that an air raid siren went off when they were in Kyiv and they had to sit in complete darkness so as not to become a target for shelling or bombing. It was very scary because the Russians have bombed the train station in Kyiv and shelled people trying to flee the country before. I did not know if Mum could make it and whether I made the right decision to take the risk and ask her to leave her house. 

Fortunately she is safe now, she can sleep in a bed and does not have to worry about having any food or medical help. The majority of my friends and family however are still in Ukraine. Senior people like my granddad, who is over 80, would rather die than leave his home where he has spent all his life and where my grandmother is buried. Men from 18 to 60 stay because they have to and want to defend the country. Some women stay because they want to be with their husbands and fathers. Some women stay to fight. Some are medical professionals or volunteers helping others, they would not leave. Some, like my cousin-in-law, are scared to go on their own with little children. The majority have nowhere to go and they do not want to be refugees, stay in refugees camps and rely on other people's support. People just want to have their lives back and live in their homes.  

The worst part is that we do not know what to expect tomorrow or the day after. We are appalled by the events  in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol and other cities. Pictures that are emerging are  harrowing. We all hope that the international community will do more to support Ukraine.

Our life will never be the same. All Ukrainians are at the war front and in the home front, in the volunteer headquarters, with our families; we all do what we can to retain our country. We fight for our land, our homes and our families. We will fight as long as we can.
I want to take this opportunity to say that I am moved by the support we received from the British people. I want to express my enormous gratitude on behalf of all Ukrainians. Your support of any kind saves lives and helps people suffering the consequences of this wretched, non-sensical war.

I want to ask everyone to continue supporting Ukraine. You know that the war is not over yet. We need further military and financial help to defend our families and homes. We need tougher sanctions to end this war.

Each and every one of us plays a role in this. Remember that

  • You matter
  • Your voice matters
  • Your government makes political decisions based on your opinion

Please stand with Ukraine, express your views publicly, ask for more support for Ukraine, keep donating and remember that together we have the power to make a difference.

For more information, please contact Oleksandra.Vytiaganets@dwf.law

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