The Reality of War from the Point of View of a Ukrainian Student
Olena is a 20-year-old Ukrainian girl that endured the first days of the Russian invasion. She is in her 4th year as a student of International Relations at the Taras Shevcheko National University of Kyiv. A letter, detailing her days of horror, was sent to Novinite.com. The point of it is for her story to reach more people, including Bulgarians. We publish this letter without any edits or censorship and we rely on our readers to make their own conclusions.
“Choosing the International Relations as my major, I dreamed of diplomatic work in the spirit of negotiations - not guns. The threat of war discussed in Ukraine I was preparing for my final exams. In parallel, I argued hard that a full-scale conflict scenario was impossible, i.e. irrational, inefficient and harmful to all parties, including Russia.
On the eve of the Russian invasion, the students at our university were passing the UN Charter. I happened to recite Article 51. In 36 hours, the aggressor used it to justify his unforgivable actions.
I faced the war at home, having woken up in the morning to a muffled blast. That was a Russian missile that hit the Ozerne airfield near Zhytomyr. First, there was stupor, then euphoria, and disappointment along with apathy later. I was taping the windows feverishly, packing my first aid kit and emergency suitcase, viewing 100500 telegram channels, crying, and sending money to our Armed Forces. Then I started helping my mother at the pharmacy.
People immediately rushed for both the essentials and everything else, just in case. Bandages, tourniquets, cotton wool and painkillers vanished instantly. I was torn between a salesroom and a storage section sorting drugs, preparing lists of medicines for Territorial Defense Forces, checking out bills, answering dozens of calls. Traditional sedatives, such as Bulgarian valerian or Barboval, ran out quickly with powerful drugs like hidazepam being increasingly used. In the end, there were not even condoms left in the pharmacy. They were used as makeshift tourniquets. A multifunctional thing, joking apart.
There were a lot of tears, hugs, and sincere emotions, of the broadest spectrum. Despite the fatigue, exhaustion, and constant monitoring of the news, we sought to maintain at least some normalcy and help those defending Ukraine or saving their lives.
More and more often, our town was getting within the air alarm range. We were completely unprepared for shelling. There was no underground cellar, just a bathroom with a window, a kitchen with a gas boiler and 2 kilometers to the nearest bomb shelter. All our friends left.
Later, the first residential buildings and critical infrastructure, including military ones, were bombed. Korosten and Ovruch suffered from constant Russian pressure. We lived in ‘safety’ just because the enemy could not concentrate critical forces in our direction.
At noon on the seventh day of the war, a huge checkpoint was built in front of our house. Exit from the town was blocked in preparation for a possible enemy offensive. It was getting too dangerous to stay at home. Having packed some things, my mother picked me up and left in search of transport. Having paid a small fortune, consisting of a pension, several scholarships of mine and ridiculous savings, we reached the Ukrainian-Polish border. Physically, it was relative safety, but a complete uncertainty morally. It was scary to stay and embarrassing to flee when millions of others are fighting.
A few days after the evacuation, it became clear we had done the right thing. Our house was damaged by the fragment of a downed missile.
Those days have shattered dozens of my beliefs, overturned my plans and shaken up values. I refuse to see myself as a victim, refugee, or escapee. Now, we keep fighting on the information frontline and try to support our heroes by all available means. But it still seems we are not doing enough. I think it to be a complex of every Ukrainian nowadays.
I believe in our victory because every day of this war gives meaning to my existence as a Ukrainian, as a citizen and as a person whose profession is designed to prevent what is happening today.
I am sure that most of my talented classmates will start their memoirs with February 24, 2022, as a date that encouraged them to work for the good of their country. I don't know if the world will remain as it stands (personally, I threw my printed UN Charter into the fire right after the war started), but Ukraine will survive. I believe it, and so should you."
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