On 24th February 2022, after years of unrest, Russia launched a full-scale attack on my country, Ukraine, and one year on, there seems to be no end to the violence, and peace feels a long way off.
It’s been a year since Ukrainians were faced with another Russian invasion, and have been fighting for their land and loved ones. In that time, thousands of young lives that should have been studying, working and enjoying life, have been cut short by bullets, and those who survived will forever be left with psychological trauma.
War is very scary, it takes away the future from a large number of people at once, drives them into depression and forbids them to live.
A year ago, Ukrainians were divided into two groups: those who emigrated to other countries and those who stayed at home.
I was forced to leave, first to Poland and then to the United States under the influence of panic and stress, so I can describe the feelings that a person who has chosen the path of immigration experiences when fear forces him or her to leave their home. First of all, it is a depressing state, you realise that you may never return to the place where you grew up, never see your hometown and streets again, never breathe in the smell of Ukrainian spring and never hear the early singing of birds that you remember so well at home.
Memories are combined with anxiety for relatives who remained in Ukraine and tears for lost people, as we try to stay in touch with friends and family who escaped to other countries.
A New Country
Added to this are the difficulties you face in a new country, learning a new language, and a different mentality of people, but the most difficult thing is financial problems. Imagine leaving a country where you worked, maybe had your own business, you just drop everything and leave, arrive in a new country where you have nothing, where housing alone costs the same as living in Ukraine for a month, and you still need to eat and study because Ukrainian diplomas are not recognized in the United States. My mom is a doctor, she has a master’s degree, but here, despite her knowledge and experience, she has to survive and work for a low wage. Many refugees experience this; it is a very difficult path, and many do not survive. It’s very easy to say “forget it and start a new life in a new country,” but moving to another country of your own free will and being forced to leave it under such circumstances is not the same thing.
Lives on hold
Mariupol is a city that was completely destroyed by the Russian military, up to 100,000 people died there, and thousands more were forcibly taken to Russia, and those lucky ones who managed to get out of Ukraine and are now abroad will never see their hometown again, it simply does not exist. Will a person be able to study, work and enjoy life after that? Of course not. While in the United States, teenagers have the opportunity to plan their future, study and even just walk around and be healthy, in Ukraine, 15-year-old boys are dying in the intelligence service, trying to help in any way they can.
Those who remained in Ukraine are a generation of wounded people who live with the eternal sound of sirens, explosions and fear of death – this is not what a person should feel in our time. No one will understand a person who went to the store, came home and saw that his wife, daughter and grandchildren were gone, all dead, all together.
How can an 18-year-old boy whose parents were killed in the shelling and who was left alone with two younger brothers and two sisters continue his studies? Now he is forced to work so that his family does not starve to death. His life will no longer be carefree, there will be no more walks with friends in the evenings and no more time spent in college.
14-year-old girls who have been victims of Russian harassment will be traumatised for the rest of their lives.
These are not fictional stories, this is our reality, in which we live, or rather survive. I understand that I am “lucky”, I have a place to live and my family is alive, but I cannot enjoy life, I cannot walk around New York and react with admiration to skyscrapers. I can’t rest because of the suffering of the Ukrainian people, I can’t think about the future, and I don’t have a single thing I enjoy 100%. I pray every day that we will have a future, but unfortunately, the psyche cannot be cured so easily, and the dead cannot be brought back to life, and this war will forever leave its mark on our souls and our health.
Peace is at the heart of the Global Goals. The people of Ukraine, the country itself, and the whole world will not achieve the Global Goals until the conflict is over, and Ukrainians can live happy, healthy and safe lives in their own country.
About the author:
Yelyzaveta Posivnych is a Ukrainian student, who left Ukraine in 2022, and is currently living and studying in New York, USA.