It is clear that major events affect the life of society, especially if the events are negative. People tend to pay attention to the bad more often than the good. You get used to the good quickly. But as 2022 showed me, you also get used to the bad when you have no choice.
Ukrainians’ lives changed irrevocably on the night of Feb. 24, 2022. I decided to collect from my social media networks various personal stories about how things have changed. Among them, I’ve decided to recount four of them, as well as my own.
My own story
My generation was born about 10 years after Ukraine gained independence, so we always knew what freedom was. However, we did not witness the Chornobyl tragedy, nor the arrest of those who fought for this freedom, nor the killing of those who defended it, nor any of the famines and previous wars.
The war in eastern Ukraine has been going on for nine years. But that war in the Donbas had been local for most of those years. So yes, we were always free. But we never knew the price of our freedom. We lived our lives without even thinking that we were free. We just lived. Today, every centimeter of my state is redolent of the will to be free – all 603,700 square kilometers of Ukraine. And this is good.
On Feb. 24, I probably woke up ten years older. Today I am 23. But after everything I have experienced and seen, I feel much older. If before I dreamed mostly about my apartment in the center of Kyiv, today I dream that my dad will return from the war alive and unharmed – victorious. And it’s not about desire – it’s about values.
Daryna Kolomiiets with her father.
All of us learned to set priorities in 2022. I wake up one morning and suddenly realize that my whole life must be contained in a suitcase. And the most important thing is life – my life, here and now, and that of my family.
Daria Kinsha with her grandmother.
Taras is 22 today, four years of which he has been in the army. I often say that I saw a lot of horrors in 2022, but I am afraid to even imagine what Taras has seen in his life. He has been in the hospital for several months now, after receiving a concussion and injuries. I chose his story because I know from my own observations that his position is very similar to the position of today’s youth in Ukraine.
Taras Shtyfurak - one of Ukraine's young defenders
“If we talk about changes, of course, initially there was chaos in my head. When I finally sat down and thought about everything that had happened, the feeling of a ‘lost world’ came to me. This is when it became obvious that the reality in which we lived, loved, walked, studied, worked... was destroyed. In all senses.
“At the beginning of the war, I lost half the people in my phone book… It is logical that by losing you begin to appreciate. But there is another side of the coin. You start getting used to losing a lot – no matter how scary it sounds. At some point in my life, I came to terms with the deaths that at times happened around me almost every day. It became normal… I’m not sure if everyone will be able to understand.
“And maybe even more surprising is the fact that seeing death every day makes me want to live even more. Live as long as possible. And take from this life everything I can.”
Taras Shtyfurak in hospital.
Sashko is 23, and already he has changed his position on many things.
“I always had a negative attitude towards Russia, because I knew about all the things that happened during my youth, and history often showed who is who. But it was after the full-scale invasion that the perception of things that used to be okay for me changed. Until Feb. 24, I spoke Russian. Since then I’ve only spoken Ukrainian. In the same way, only after the rockets flew into my house did I give up consuming Russian content. I stopped listening to Russian-language music, reading Russian-language books and their authors in general. I even gave up watching movies dubbed into Russian.”
Dasha has been living in Ukraine for 21 years. She was born in Moscow. At the age of three, she moved to Ukraine, in the Kirovohrad region, to live with her grandparents. Her mother stayed in Russia for work, as did her father and brothers.
“I was skeptical about the tattack before Feb.24. So I packed my ‘anxious suitcase’ only in the morning after the first explosions. In 2022, I had to cut all ties with my family in Russia. I still have their contacts and social networks, but now there’s a gap between us. To my tears and stories about rocket fire, abuse of Ukrainians, I hear the responses: ‘You’re shooting at yourself.’ ‘You’re to blame for everything.’ ‘Why did your Nazis invade our Donbas?’ My mother called me a ‘Banderite.’ So, in some respect, this year made me an orphan, and in another, it showed that family is not always about blood ties. Those who are next to me physically or mentally in happy and tragic moments of my life are family. These are the people who share hiding in the subway from explosions with me. These are the people who are worried about my safety. I have such people. So despite the loss of family ties, I’ve never been alone, because I am Ukrainian and my nation is about support and unity.”
Today, Nastya lives in Poland. She is 25. And during this year, the woman says, she changed her life 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
“There are a lot of people who left Ukraine after the full-scale invasion and have no plans to return. I have a completely different situation. I study in Poland. And to be honest, I never wanted to go home. On the contrary, I wanted to go ‘somewhere farther away.’ But then you realize that your land is burning, your people are dying on it, and that you may never return to it. Everything changes. While others were leaving the war, I decided to ‘run to meet it.’ I’m currently finishing my studies. Almost all my things have already been transported to Ukraine.
“Probably the main change is valuing yourself and your time. Because the war taught me that everything in life has an end. And we are not eternal. I finally started to study English harder. I decided to drink only good coffee. I broke up with my husband. It should have happened a long time ago, but I kept putting it off, not understanding why. And then I understood, that one life is enough for me. Somehow, after Feb. 24, everything became easier in terms of decision-making. Because you understand that the worst change in your life has already come. And it is enough to wait for the moment. Because life is just one moment.”
The change shared by nearly all those who wrote about their stories was that they were all happy to be born in Ukraine. And never in their lives have they felt such crazy pride when saying the words “I’m Ukrainian” as they do now.
And if I am writing this text, if my country is under the blue-and-yellow flag, if we are strong, free and independent, it is thanks to the Ukrainian army.
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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