Ukraine – A Home away from Home
Three weeks of devastation in Ukraine – a living nightmare for many Americans and me, still not even comparable to the living hell of uncertainty, grief, shock, and constant sirens and missile strikes for Ukrainians.
In 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the birthplace of my mom and older brother, as well as the current/past home of my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins – Kharkiv, Ukraine. In 1994, my parents (who met and wedded each other in Kharkiv) alongside my brother at the time dropped everything they ever knew and emigrated from Kharkiv to Indianapolis, Indiana. Kharkiv profoundly impacted and defined my life before my life ever even began. In retrospect, my trip to Ukraine in 2019 was one of the wisest decisions I feel I have ever made. At the end of my journey, when entering the doors to Terminal A at Kharkiv International Airport, my eyes were filled with tears, my mind with uncertainty, and my heart with sorrow and guilt as I saw my cousins in the photo above similarly unable to maintain their composure and crying as we all parted ways. Little did I know at the moment that this quite possibly could be the last time I ever see these fun and sweet cousins of mine and this city that has been so impactful to my life today.
On February 24th, 2022, my life and the lives of many Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans alike forever changed and have not been the same since. These innocent people in Ukraine, such as my cousins in the photo, are now subject to a cruel war initiated by Europe’s most vile excuse of a human being since the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin. Every day, I wake up with two sincere emotions – gratitude and anguish. Gratitude for the fact I call myself an American. Knowing about my parent’s upbringing and immigration here is an immense privilege having this opportunity to now live in the greatest country on Earth. I wake up each morning in a cozy bed with clear skies above and another day to explore and enjoy the beauties of life. I do, however, have anguish for a multitude of reasons I struggle even to explain. For me, is it the fact that millions of innocent Ukrainian children, women, and families are being ripped apart due to the ambitions of a single soulless individual? Or my helplessness and subsequent guilt as an American thousand of miles away from “my home away from home”? Or how my heart and typically positive spirit within the span of three weeks have been absolutely ripped to shreds? Hearing the misery in my mom’s voice when she discusses her home of nearly 30 years being leveled due to airstrikes compounded with the news of family and family friends evacuating (or staying) in the homes they have lived in their entire lives has brought immeasurable agony.
Before February 24th, I used to wake up every morning determined to start the day and eager to go, now I wake up every morning texting my cousin Sergei, my cousin-in-law Katya, my Aunt Lidiya, my cousin Ivan, our family friend Lyudmila to see if they are still alive. Minutes before writing this, I video called Katya while also catching a glimpse of my cousins once removed, Ivan and Matvei, playing with each other and just being children. Unlike others in my family, they chose to try and seek refuge outside Ukraine. They will begin a 1,000 + kilometer trek from Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine (a city they escaped to from Kharkiv) toward its western border. The tiredness and sadness in their faces and voices were clear. Several days ago, Katya, Ivan, and Matvei said goodbye to her husband and their father, my cousin Sergei, who stayed home in Kharkiv. Considering the sorrow that filled us all when I left Kharkiv in 2019, it destroys me even to begin to imagine the sorrow they felt and are feeling due to this separation of their family and this diabolical situation overall.
If western intelligence is correct, there is no limit to the unhinged dictator of Russia. Subsequently, this destruction of families and friends, homes, and many joyous memories will continue. As my cousin-in-law Katya echoed in her video call with me just a few minutes ago, Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans alike are all counting on the West to do more. Much has been done, but not enough. As the resilient Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed, Katya also knows the West must close the skies in Ukraine. I understand, and Katya knows we have the might to stand up to this bully. Now let’s have the willpower. Millions of Ukrainian families and children are counting on the West, and they know this bully’s cruelty will not stop in Ukraine.
How are Western leaders going to stand by and pat themselves on the back, claiming current actions have been an effective deterrent? For the sake of people like Sergei, Katya, Ivan, Matvei, Lidiya, Lyudmila, millions of other Ukrainians, and the preservation of democracy as we know it, it is about time the West shows who we indeed are and stand up to this pitiful autocrat who is determined to commit genocide against Ukrainians and undermine the future of Western democracy.
To learn how you can give back, visit Indiana Supports Ukraine. All proceeds support Ukraine. They are collecting money, goods, and amazon items. They’re going through the logistics of what they feel is important and are coordinating with a Ukrainian organization called Mist to get supplies there.