Guest essays: On the war in Ukraine
March 14, 2022
Below are two guest essays from friends of the Rehns: Diana Kimak and Diana Sobolieva. Both of their families are currently in Ukraine. Kimak recently went back to be with her family during this time. Sobolieva is at Williams College in Massachusetts.
These essays have been edited for clarity.
Kimak is 18 years old and was born in and lives in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. She is currently a freshman at LCC International University in Lithuania.
Mar. 5 was supposed to be the day when I would come back home on spring break and see my family. However, the morning of Feb. 24 changed my life, priorities and dreams drastically.
There is nothing worse than finding out a war has started in your country and not knowing whether your family is still alive, especially while you are in another country. The dialing never seemed so long as when I was calling my loved ones to check whether they were okay. In one moment, all the worries about the upcoming midterms and the excitement about my trip home were replaced by uncertainty, helplessness and anxiousness.
When I realized I was abroad at the time when my home country is being bombed and Ukrainians are being killed, I felt guilt. It was consuming me from the inside, and the first two days I couldn’t do anything but watch the news, call my parents every two hours and share my pain with other students from Ukraine on campus. On the third day of the war, the majority of Ukrainian students gathered together, and we all decided that we needed to do everything we could to make sure we had a home to come back to.
That’s how we started our Ukraine Care Initiative, which is a student-led initiative that aims to organize fundraising events, help refugees from Ukraine in Lithuania and organize peaceful protests against the war. Being busy helps me avoid reading news all the time and makes me feel like I contribute to my dear Ukrainian community. Since the war started, my mission has become clear: I have to be there for my people and my country, even if I’m physically in another country.
The state Ukraine is in right now breaks my heart: people I know have to sleep in bomb shelters/basements, pay attention to every sound because it might be the siren, run to a store as fast as possible so they don’t get killed by a missile, go without some medicine they need just because they can’t get it, worry whether they will ever see their homes ever again when evacuating and so much more.
Feb. 24 became a day when all the Ukrainians became united by a shared dream—to be able to defend their country and families. The Russian leader’s imperialistic plans have made Ukraine even stronger and more determined. I am proud to be a Ukrainian because this nation is unbreakable. We would rather die than be enslaved by a dictator.
Sobolieva is 20 years old and was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine. She is currently a freshman at Williams College.
For a long time, I did not believe that war could happen. There had been a lot of coverage of Ukraine in the past month, especially saying that Russia was collecting troops at the border and that an attack was imminent. Still, I could not believe this was possible.
But then, late Wednesday night, I was finishing my work shift in the library when my friend texted me, “Diana. Diana. The war has started.” I could not believe this was true because for a long time I rejected the possibility of an invasion—especially such a full-scale war, with attacks not only on the regions close to the Russian border but also in Central and Western Ukraine. For the first week of the war, I could not function as I could before. It just seemed to me that the war was surreal and that it was a bad dream. I felt like soon I would wake up and see my country as it was before: peaceful and carefree. But this did not happen.
My new morning routine became checking in with my family and reading dozens of news reports. I am following multiple Telegram channels led by the government or by Ukrainian citizens who share videos of the city’s destruction. Even watching the videos of places that are bombed and reminiscing on the walks I had there feels surreal. But, unfortunately, what is happening is true.
I still cannot believe that the war has been going on for more than two weeks now. I feel really proud of being Ukrainian and the courage of our people. So many people right now are doing anything they can to resist the invaders. They are enlisting in the army, donating, volunteering, joining the cyber army and opening their homes for people evacuating from war. I know that even though many of our cities are being destroyed, many people, including me, will be willing to rebuild the city and make Ukraine even more beautiful than it was before.
It often feels unfair that I am staying safe in this tiny town in Massachusetts while my family is in danger. I don’t feel the effects of war in this rural town. People are living their regular lives, laughing, smiling and stressing over exams. It is hard to also live this life when you know that your friends and family are facing constant danger and wake up at night to the sounds of shelling. The war has completely changed my perspective on life, and I don’t think I will be able to look at things the same way again.
First of all, I feel uneasy learning about philosophy or art history knowing that, somewhere in the world, people are suffering. I don’t think we realize how privileged we are not only to have access to good education, but also to be able to fully focus on it. Even when the war in Ukraine ends, I will still keep this in mind as I go through life.
Second, I realized the importance of trivial things in life, such as walking to school everyday or riding a bus. I have been deprived of these simple things, and I am not sure I will be able to do the same things again.
Third, I realized how insignificant conflicts and misunderstandings between friends can be. The most important thing is to do everything you can to help the other person, and make sure that everyone is alive and safe.
I also want to reach out to American students and urge them to recognize this privilege of education and being in the right environment to take full advantage of this education. Please know that safety and peace should not be taken for granted. Not every country in the world is lucky to be peaceful. Also, I would like to encourage you to do what you can to help Ukraine. Please donate money to nonprofits, write letters to your reps asking to support Ukraine, sign petitions, attend or organize rallies and share truthful information about the war. Every voice counts!
P.S. My friend and I started a GoFundMe page to collect donations and buy humanitarian support for Ukraine: https://gofund.me/40a7a7c7, which we will ship through Nova Poshta Global. We would appreciate your help and spreading the word!