Within the nation’s darkest hours, Ukrainians look out for one another

Ukrainian Anna Liutyk (R) poses for {a photograph} collectively together with her mom (L) and associates, as they provide free meals and drinks to individuals standing in line cross the border at a checkpoint in Lviv Oblast to flee Russia’s struggle on Ukraine on Feb. 27, 2022. (Kateryna Babkina)

Sixteen-year-old Ukrainian Anna Liutyk will always remember that early morning when she woke as much as her mom screaming essentially the most terrifying phrases she had ever heard.

“The struggle has began,” Liutyk’s mom cried out.“ (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin began a struggle.” 

A number of Ukrainian cities had been shelled that very same day on Feb. 24, as Russia declared a significant struggle on Ukraine, attacking the nation with missiles, helicopters, tanks, and ships.

Russian troops have already killed a whole lot of civilian Ukrainians, destroying a number of objects of crucial societal infrastructure.

However within the face of nice adversity, Ukrainians confirmed unprecedented unity. 

Civilians all throughout the nation do no matter it takes to assist one another: They ship drugs and meals for these hiding in bomb shelters. Each common residents and restaurant cooks put together meals for the army, refugees, and civilians. Individuals undertake deserted animals and supply shelters and rides to fellow Ukrainians.

Liutyk isn’t any exception: The lady, collectively together with her mom and greatest pal, has been providing heat meals and drinks without cost to fleeing Ukrainians who’re spending exhausting hours in traces on the border with Poland in Lviv Oblast, the place she lives. 

“Such troublesome occasions both break the nation or, similar to in our case, unite it completely,” Liutyk says.  

Youngsters supporting refugees 

On the primary day of struggle, Liutyk didn’t go to highschool, and neither did different kids throughout Ukraine. 

She and her mom spent the whole day monitoring the information and getting in contact with their family members.

As they left the home later that day, the household noticed a whole lot of individuals heading to the border checkpoint close by. Liutyk seen a whole lot of foreigners amongst them.  

Based on the United Nations, a million individuals already fled Ukraine in an try to flee the brutal struggle. Ukrainians flee to neighboring nations comparable to Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, and others. Over 50,000 foreigners have additionally left Ukraine since Feb. 24. 

Most of them spent hours if not days in enormously lengthy traces to cross the border.

“I used to be simply standing on the road, crying, as I noticed that this was an precise struggle and folks had been leaving,” Liutyk says. 

The variety of individuals elevated as night time fell. As Liutyk seemed out of the window at round 10 p.m., she seen the road stretching proper to her home, positioned about 15 kilometers from the state border. 

“We had been barely scared to see so many strangers at first,” Liutyk says. “So we had been sitting quietly in our home, with the lights off.” 

Liutyk quickly discovered her mom’s pal began serving to the refugees, providing them in a single day shelter and a few meals. They determined to assist as effectively.

As the road stored rising on the subsequent day, Liutyk seen an exhausted previous girl with two grandchildren, searching for a restroom. She invited them in. The girl sat close to the entrance door, holding her grandson and shuddering each time she heard some loud noise. 

“That was surprising,” Liutyk says. 

She known as her pal Yaryna to assist. The women began strolling alongside the road and providing sizzling tea and low to individuals making an attempt to get via the clogged borders. The following day, they put a desk outdoors Liutyk’s home and started providing individuals sizzling dishes like conventional Ukrainian borshch, salo (salted pork fats) with bread and pickles, in addition to sweets, and sizzling drinks. 

Liutyk says she has by no means hugged so many individuals and has by no means heard so many variety phrases from strangers. 

“It evokes and provides hope that we’ll win,” she says.

Though there are virtually no traces now, Liutyk continues supporting these in want: She helps to deal with adults and youngsters staying on the refugee shelter arrange in a neighborhood college. Her mom and her associates are additionally on board.

In these variety phrases, comforting hugs, and gratuitous mutual help, Liutyk sees the unity of the Ukrainian individuals. And that, she says, is one thing that defines Ukraine.

“We, Ukrainians, are so sturdy,” Liutyk says. “We attempt to assist one another nevertheless we will as a result of it’s who we’re,” she provides. “It’s in our veins.”

Free psychological assist 

Feb. 24 was one of many scariest days for Kyiv-based psychologist Julia Naista. 

Her three-year-old child boy wasn’t sleeping effectively at night time “as if feeling one thing was coming,” Naista says. When she noticed the sunshine from explosions out of her window, Naista instantly checked the information. 

Her worst nightmare proved to be true. Putin had launched a struggle on Ukraine.

“I used to be very scared,” she says. 

Naista and her husband determined to go away the capital as quickly as potential. “I noticed that we both depart Kyiv now or by no means,” Naista says. 

Early morning on Feb. 25, the household headed to Mukachevo, Naista’s dwelling city in western Ukraine. She didn’t have a go-bag ready for the emergency, just some paperwork packed the day earlier than. The remaining, she says, they had been packing in full chaos, simply throwing some garments into the suitcase. She finally forgot to place many requirements like socks or underwear for her child. 

When locals discovered she was in want of garments for her son they introduced her much more of it than she wanted. 

“Individuals had been so variety, I needed to ask them to cease bringing garments as we already had an excessive amount of,” she says, including that she was impressed and grateful for the help. 

She, too, determined to step in and assist others.

Psychologist Naista reached out to all of her former and present sufferers, asking them in the event that they wanted help in such a troublesome time.

She’s presently providing free psychological assist for anybody who wants it. 

She joined the group of volunteers in Mukachevo to supply refugees and their kids with psychological help. She additionally holds on-line consultations serving to individuals overcome nervousness and stress attributable to the struggle. 

Apart from psychological assist, she additionally often helps fleeing individuals discover petrol and lodging to relocate to in western Ukraine.

She says this social help is crucial in dealing with robust conditions. 

“Earlier than (the struggle) we might get this help from members of the family. However now we get it from all of the individuals of Ukraine,” she says. 

“We’re united, we’re collectively and it offers hope that every thing will likely be tremendous.” 


On Feb. 23, Kyiv citizen Valeria Kuzmenko was a profitable entrepreneur, co-owning a magnificence salon and a regulation agency. However similar to thousands and thousands of different Ukrainians, Kuzmenko’s life modified drastically in a single day when Russia started a significant struggle on Ukraine. 

“My entire life collapsed,” Kuzmenko says. 

Kuzmenko, 24, says she wasn’t afraid for her life, just for the lives of her family members. So she introduced her mom and their beloved canine to a spot safer than their dwelling on the outskirts of Kyiv. She determined not to stick with them, however to return again to her dwelling city and help those that had been left alone there. 

Kuzmenko reached out to her pal within the army, asking how she might assist them. She ended up buying all hygiene merchandise from a neighborhood retailer and donated them to the military. 

It took her a number of days to show from a profitable entrepreneur right into a fearless volunteer. 

Not solely does she volunteer for the army, elevating cash to buy numerous items like slippers, yellow material for armbands for territorial protection items, cigarettes, and extra, however she additionally delivers meals and drugs to these civilians who’re unable to go away their residences or bomb shelters. 

“I get a whole lot of requests from residents who’re (hiding) in basements and are hungry or want some particular medicines,” Kuzmenko says. 

She makes use of her Instagram account as a platform to look for individuals who need assistance, in addition to discover those that might help. 

1000’s of normal Ukrainians together with influencers started utilizing their accounts on social media as platforms to assist one another because the outbreak of struggle. They unfold the phrase on-line to seek out misplaced relations, uncommon drugs for the aged or youngsters, or a easy experience or a spot to sleep.

Kuzmenko says she will get requests not solely from Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast however from different areas as effectively. 

She tries to assist these in Kyiv instantly and appears for volunteers in different areas.

However it’s not solely individuals she assists: Kuzmenko says she additionally rescues pets deserted by their homeowners resulting from struggle. Her army base is now dwelling not solely to troopers and volunteers however to rescued cats and canines as effectively. 

Surrounded by many strangers daily, Kuzmenko says she hasn’t seen a quarrel or an argument amongst them ever because the struggle began. 

“Everybody simply rushes to assist one another,” Kuzmenko says. 

Each day she learns in regards to the dying of an acquintance. And daily she cries after returning dwelling. But these tragedies inspire Kuzmenko to maintain serving to others and combat “for the way forward for her household, nation, and nation.” 

“For my beloved and nice Ukraine.” 

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