Chicago rally to oppose the war in Ukraine, February 2022
How war affected young Ukrainians - and what you can do about it?
As a Ukrainian teenager who has been a refugee for more than half a year, I have already lived in so many places that it is hard for me to call any of the recently inhabited places “home”. For the past six months, I have lived in Germany, France, and Spain. I have stayed in a small hotel room and someone else’s apartment. I am grateful I had this opportunity, but everywhere I went, I felt like a stranger.
Although my friends and I received a great chance to live and study abroad, we all want to go back home as soon as the war ends. Maybe it is hard to comprehend for those who travel across Europe willingly, but we, the Ukrainian teenagers, who have become adults way too quickly, just want to land at our hometown airport because It is the best possible feeling – something so underestimated when accessible.
I know that our stories might seem bizarre, scary, and unrelatable. But everyone can try to understand and relate. And everyone can help – even other young people, and teenagers from around the globe. Why? To support those in need. To avoid sharing the same fate. And just because they – you – can.
My friend who is 19 years old, currently in Switzerland, comes from Kyiv:
“Since 24th February my life seems unreal. For the first two weeks of the war, my main daily activity was going in and back from the bomb shelter. During the nights, I could only hear and think about the safety of not only myself but mostly my family.”
“Now, I’m a refugee in Switzerland and even though I’m away from the battlefield, I still feel unsafe. I’m tired as if I stayed awake for the last few months without any sleep. I exchanged my passion for basketball with poetry to try and express my feelings. Access to education in Europe has so many benefits but the amount of paperwork and drawbacks, which is a lot to handle for a teenager, is really overwhelming. All I hope for is for that nightmare to end soon, so I can see my friends and close ones. So I can go back to my chosen life.”
Picture taken by an anonymous interviewee
My friend who is 18 years old, currently in Vienna, comes from Kyiv:
“I still remember the noises near my house, because it is so close to the airport that I heard and saw flying fighters. It was so hard to leave my home, we stayed there until March, and then my life split into two parts: “Before” and “After”.”
“When I was nine years old, I was dreaming of living in Vienna in adulthood. It was my dream destination and now, when I suddenly arrived there, all I really want is to be back home. It would be so much different if not for the current circumstances. I feel anger towards the aggressor for having taken away my opportunities to hug relatives, hang out with my friends (who are now scattered around the world), and engage in my usual routine. However, since February I value everything I have more than ever before. Thus, I understand that in Vienna I may have more opportunities now, but I want to return and build up my country and my homeland.”
My friend who came back home to Irpin despite the war:
“When the war began, I lived on the border with Bucha. I heard all the explosions, and saw horrific things. The situation worsened around March 2nd, when there were arrivals in Irpin and the explosions did not stop. On March 5th, my family packed our things and left at 6am. The first stop was Vinnitsa, then Khmelnitsky, Ternopil, at the end Rovno.”
“I didn’t know what happened to my house, or whether I would ever be able to return. But when the Russians finally left Irpin, my stepfather went back, sealed the windows with film, and took care of our belongings. Our apartment was damaged, but I won’t complain, because it still exists. A lot of other apartments in my residential complex have burned down completely. On June 3rd, we returned home. Happiness from return was stronger than fear. I cannot see any other place or way to live.”
Such stories are not just devastating. They also bring hope. My friend who came back home to Irpin posted information on social media about collecting money for the renovation of the damaged residential complex. Their neighbourhood is now being restored.
We can all contribute despite our age, contacts, or the amount of money in the bank.
So what can all of us do?
Charity and volunteer work
You can donate not only money but also your time by searching for volunteer centres and funds helping Ukraine.
It is also possible to provide direct help for refugees and the Armed Forces, such as by sharing food, clothes, basic necessities of hygiene, working electronics, and medicines. In almost every city there is an organisation which collects these stocks and has a need for more volunteers.
You can encourage friends to help by organising a charity fair. First, however, check what is mostly needed. Helping doesn’t mean donating things we simply don’t need anymore. Collect everything in cardboard or plastic boxes and sign them to make it easier to sort.
Creating social media/websites in your city to provide information for refugees
The most-needed information include: 1. Orientation – how and where paperwork procedures take place. 2. Accommodation – guides to searching for apartments and rooms (both from volunteer hosts and landlords). 3. Signposting – towards help centres and hotlines.
Share and support Ukrainian culture
Culture is the identity of the nation. By learning about Ukrainian culture, listening to Ukrainian music, reading Ukrainian literature, seeing the works by Ukrainian artists, and performers or even purchasing Ukrainian clothing brands you help to save our culture.
Supporting our culture shows the world that we are sovereign and independent people with our own history. You can follow some concerts for charity or repost such playlists as this one, suggested by Spotify.
Share and repost news about the war in Ukraine
Every day Russia is bombing our peaceful cities: shopping centers (Kremenchug, Kiev, Odessa), universities (Kharkov), neuromedical centers (Vinitsya). It is vital to keep people informed about these actions. However, it is now not easy to repost valid information from reliable sources.
We have two kinds of information: true and propaganda, and some people, who stand away from politics, could get lost verifying which is what. That’s why it’s important to repost responsibly, from well-known profiles and magazines. If possible, it is also good to check some Ukrainians magazines or social media, such as news public in chat app Telegram (“ Україна 24” “Украина Сейчас”).
Collected by: Chief Executive Leadership Institute
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Carefully choose places for travel and the products you buy
By travelling and supporting tourism in some countries you can accidently financially support war and Russia. It is important to check whether a country still imports items which are under sanctions or cooperates with Russia. Also, there are many brands of foods, cosmetics, and different items that don’t support the idea of suspension of cooperation with Russian offices. You can contribute by making more aware choices.
Make groups for communication and dating
Many Ukrainians, like my friends and myself, were forced to leave families and hometowns. We usually feel lost and lonely in unfamiliar cities. You can help us by making friends with Ukrainian teenagers, showing them around, letting them know you better, or facilitate their contact with each other through applications and social media.
For example, some teenagers from Poland have created an app which allows you to communicate and find new friend in exile.
Putin’s war is not only about one person who takes responsibility. The world needs to stand with Ukraine, because standing with Ukraine means staying with truth and freedom.
This war showed all of us how fast things can change and how powerful world-wide support is. I assume that many teenagers are concerned about how to be engaged and help in this situation. Remember – it’s never about one person affecting global issues. It’s always about the world’s response and solidarity in which you can participate no matter the private circumstances.
Every action, every possible support and publicity is making a difference. Everyone can make a positive influence step by step. Because even one repost can sometimes help someone to rebuild their lives, neighbourhood, 0r community.