The invasion began on February 24, 2022, on three fronts (to the north, across the Belarusian border; to the east, across the border with Russia; and to the south, from Crimea, the peninsula that Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014 and in which an active conflict has been going on ever since). But the anxiety and pre-war began much earlier. Three weeks before the invasion, schools received many false bomb alert calls, which created tension throughout the population. And, a week before the attack, many people had a first aid kit and a quick escape backpack ready.
A quick escape backpack involves assuming that your country is likely to be invaded, so probable that you decide to prepare a fast take-away backpack. A bag in which you pack your whole life, but at the same time you can’t fill it all because you have to think about the things you will need and not the items you would like to have. This is a constant psychological drain, a psychological war Russia had started long before the invasion.
When the war starts, you have to decide whether to stay or to leave your country. If you choose to stay, you ask yourself again whether to leave or not every day. And every day is uncertain: you move your mattress to the load-bearing wall of your apartment or the nearest underground; during the night, all the lights in the city are turned off to try to keep the Russian soldiers from spotting the town; you try to work and live everyday life to forget what is happening, but at night you don’t sleep because of the tension, and you wake up checking all the news.
Fleeing in the war and leaving your family behind is very hard, not knowing if you will see them again or return to your country. Our friends were not lacking in optimism. They are young, strong and independent women. But they have been scarred by the war for life. Imagine waking up every day worried about whether your friends and family who are still there will be okay, anxiety levels are very high, and post-traumatic stress syndrome has already arrived for many and is just around the corner for others.
More important things you need to know if you want to help Ukrainians:
- Disseminating information about the war helps. Check the news first and then share it: promote awareness and fight misinformation.
- If you meet a Ukrainian, don’t ask them about the war, if they want to tell you themselves, they will do it when the time comes.
- Don’t promise things you can’t deliver. If the only help you can give is a glass of water, that’s fine. But don’t promise to meet them or call them if you can’t deliver.
- If you can donate, many organizations need resources to help in the country. Here are two recommendations from our speakers:
By the time this report is written, the war is still taking place. Everyone hopes that it will be over soon and that Ukrainians can return to their country. Reconstruction will not be easy; many people have lost their homes, their jobs and some of their loved ones. For our hosts, reconciliation between the Ukrainians and the Russians does not seem possible in the short or medium term. This episode in their history will probably mark all the generations that have lived through this war. Forgiveness will take years of reconstruction and dialogue. The world needs to understand that it is impossible to forgive or discuss forgiveness when you are being attacked or recovering from a trauma. Only when the country has been rebuilt in all senses and its people have worked through this trauma, should all countries support them in their quest for reconciliation and peace.
Thanks to our Ukrainian partners for their bravery and contribution to the program “Peace at War”.