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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ukraine at War: Two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion

Ukraine At War
Graphic by Jaylin Cho

The past weekend saw the two-year anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Earlier last week marked 10 years since the beginning of the illegal annexation of Crimea. While shooting a short film about the impact of the war on Ukrainians in the United States, I often speak with people about their experience of the first day of the full-scale invasion and the ways Russian aggression has been influencing their lives since 2014. The amount of pain the war has brought for the Ukrainian community never ceases to stun me.  

Although I cannot disclose the stories from my film until the project is completed, I can share my own memories of Feb. 24, 2022, which echo those of many Ukrainians who fled the war. I woke up at around 7:20 a.m. in my apartment in Kyiv. I opened Instagram, where the first thing that I saw was a message from my friend: “I’m not normally a religious man, but for what it’s worth, I’m praying for your safety tonight,” it read. I skimmed the news and realized that I would have to leave my home for an undefined amount of time.

Between 7:20 a.m. and 3 p.m., I withdrew some cash after waiting in a line for about two hours. Many people in Kyiv were unprepared for such a rapid Russian attack, so the city was extremely chaotic as everyone tried to stock up for the road or to shelter for the next few days. I packed an emergency backpack with some clothes, documents and medicine, and took the subway to get to my aunt’s apartment on another bank of the Dnipro River. I even managed to get some work done. While on the train, I actually thought that there was a chance that I would return to my apartment for the night. I never did.

With Russian troops so close to the capital in those first months and the state of shock and confusion among citizens with no idea how to adapt to war, Kyiv did not feel safe. I spent the next couple of weeks in a village in the western part of Ukraine followed by six months in Poland. As traumatic as such a rapid change of circumstances and uncertainty was, my case was far better than many others. Some of my friends were trapped in temporarily occupied (now liberated) towns around Kyiv; others had their apartments or houses demolished or lost their family members due to the attacks — the list of horrifying events is neverending. Yet my story is representative of what many Ukrainians went through: having to unexpectedly leave everything that they worked for and seek protection far from home, constantly frightened for the safety of their family and friends still facing Russian attacks.

While filming a Boston rally held to commemorate two years since the start of the full-scale war this past Saturday, I thought about the stories of over a hundred people who came to the event. Even in the greater Boston area, there are so many Ukrainians who had to rebuild their lives after losing nearly everything they had to Russian aggression, while simultaneously trying to help relatives fighting for Ukraine on the frontline or close family members who had to stay in the temporarily occupied regions. The war, although it takes place on another continent, is closer than it might seem, and Ukraine needs continuous support from the West in its fight for freedom and a chance for its citizens to have a peaceful and stable future.