‘We are brave. We are strong. And no one will take us down.’

I’m a Ukrainian Warwick student and this is my story

My name is Christina Vaschuk. I am a second-year Life Sciences and GSD student. I am also an English-born Ukrainian, and the majority of my family currently live in Ukraine.

I would like to tell the story of my family and what is happening to them, and to me and my family here in the UK.

St Sophia’s Cathedral, central Kyiv

My grandparents live in a small town called Khotanivka, north of Kyiv. They didn’t have time to leave before the Ukrainian army purposefully blew up the bridge that would allow citizens to cross the Dnieper river to the west of Ukraine. This was done to deter Russian troops.

They are safe for now, but my grandma reports hearing distant gun shots and bang – she lives in fear. There is no way for her, or the people in her village, to access fresh food. Luckily, my grandma is an amazing pickler, and has food to last her, but for how long?

Olympiiska Station, Kyiv, 2018. Now being used as a bomb shelter.

My aunt, uncle and two cousins managed to leave central Kyiv, fleeing to the outskirts to stay at a friend’s house. There are fights currently in the area they used to live in, with bombs going off in multiple areas, including near their old apartment complex. It’s quiet where they are currently, but they’ve heard air raid sirens, planes and bombs.

Now they sleep together in the basement, 11 people, incase of bombing. Traffic out of Kyiv is hectic and, now especially, the roads are extremely dangerous. Even if they wanted to leave the country, this is no longer a possibility as the government has asked all males aged 18-60 to stay, so my uncle and two cousins can’t leave. Each day, they message our family group chat saying “мы живы” – we are alive. These updates are comforting yet scary.

Rodina Myat (Motherland Monument), Kyiv. Now a museum for Ukrainian history in WWII.

I also have an uncle in the south of the country who we hear little from, but he is okay for now. He reports planes being shot down and bombs going off.

My great grandmother and extended family are in her village. There has been no reports of nearby noise but they know fights have been happening around them.

Many other Ukrainians will tell you similar stories of their families stuck there, this is just one.

It’s difficult for me to see them there, to see my country being taken away from us. I see news images of areas I have walked through in the past: Khreschatyk street where we celebrated part of my my sister’s wedding, the Glass Bridge where I celebrated my 20th, my grandma’s dacha where I’ve had countless celebrations and family gatherings. It hurts me that people are trying to destroy my country and take it away. I don’t know when or if I can go back again.

Khreschatyk Street, Kyiv.

I don’t know when I will reunite with my family. It pains me and hurts me that I can’t be there to hug them, to hold my little cousins and tell them it’s okay, to embrace my grandma for comfort, to hug my uncles who might be deployed to fight in a war no-one wanted.

But still I hope. I hope for the best, that I will see them, that I can step foot in my country again and proudly yell I’m Ukrainian. Hear me yell it from my home.

I’m Ukrainian. We are brave. We are strong. And no one will take us down, not even a madman behind a desk who believes his own psychotic thoughts.

Kyiv, memorial to WWII.

I’m there with my family in spirit, and in the UK I do everything I can to help them and the people suffering back home. Show my family, my people, that we here can support them by spreading awareness of what is happening. Shut down Russian propaganda. Spread accurate and trustworthy news. Contact MPs to get them to take action. Donate.

Inaction still has a counteractive reaction. Not doing anything, being “neutral”, puts Ukrainians in a worse-off position . Speak up, share our stories and spread the word, because Ukraine, who has been calling for help since 2014, needs it now more than ever.

Stand with Ukraine, stand with us.

Слава Україні

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Warwick students protest in solidarity with Ukraine

“We stand with Ukraine” Stuart Croft issues a statement of solidarity