“This week, I had an anxiety attack, resulting from a series of experiences. And the fact that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was the first airline to cancel all flights to Ukraine. That couldn’t be a coincidence, I thought, because I’d wanted to fly to Ukraine on Monday. My father and mother are also advising me not to come back. They’re afraid that an air attack is imminent. Even in the capital Kyiv, where I grew up in a very safe environment, they aren’t sure how it will all end.
“I got into a panic. And then, the only thing I can do is write or draw, so I wrote an post on Instagram to which lots of Ukrainians abroad responded.
Family and friends
“My father works for a big international bank which was still based in ‘Kyiv’. Last week, that bank moved to the far west of Ukraine. Such evacuations are happening in other big companies too. That’s quite worrying. My father is therefore feeling uneasy about the outcome of this situation.
“My friends in Kyiv take each day as it comes. Many of them aren’t sure what they’ll do if things go wrong. I feel powerless. During the recent protests in Kazakhstan, the Internet was down for days. We couldn’t reach our Kazakh friends at all. I don’t know what I’ll do if that happens in Ukraine.
“My family originally comes from Luhansk, in the Donbas, the war-ravaged east of Ukraine that borders on Russia. As a child, I used to go there every summer. Until everything changed in 2013 when war broke out. My old uncle still lives there with his family.
“The invasion is now eight years ago. Many people were forced to leave the area. My aunt moved away on her own with her two small children. My grandparents’ friends left everything behind and moved to the West with their pension. I’m afraid that Luhansk will never be how I remember it.”
A bit of understanding
“I find it hard when friends here at the university ask me whether and when there will be a Russian invasion and war. That invasion happened back in 2013 and the war has been going on ever since. They also tend to see me as a walking Wikipedia or geopolitical analyst instead of someone who is mainly suffering from Putin’s decisions.
“I’d like people here to show a bit of understanding for the situation. because it’s all quite confusing. The Russian and Ukrainian media are diametrically opposed to each other, but the Western media are also escalating the situation. So, you don’t know what to believe and you feel scared all the time.
“My boyfriend is Russian, which always surprises people. Even though there’s no problem. You have progressive Russians and Russians who don’t believe anything in the Russian media. Russians and Ukrainians are often played against each other through the propaganda war between Russia and Ukraine. Troops in the war are supported and supplied by Russia. I grew up speaking Russian as my first language, like everyone with family in Luhansk. But like many people from that region, I’m not Russian.
“It would be lovely if people would talk about it, read about it and not make assumptions. And not all Ukrainians are the same either. Someone with family in the east of the country has experienced very different things from someone in the west. I often hear that Ukraine is just an arena in which the West and Russia can fight out their problems. That makes me feel very sombre. Please stop saying things like that. Show a bit of empathy. Just ask what’s going on without making judgements.”