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"I am Julia. I am Ukrainian."

I am Julia I am Ukrainian. Over the last 2 months, these words have gained a special heart depth for me. 


Just a woman who was born and grew up in Kyiv. In Kyiv I had all my life. I graduated from university, got married, gave birth to my children, divorced, built a career. I often thought about where my children would study, which countries I want to explore with my friends, what future I wish for myself and my children in my country. I was building my life. But an autocrat decided that we Ukrainians have not the right to live freely, democratically and independently.

In Kyiv, I worked in the marketing field with incredibly talented people. We were united by the fact that all our plans - no matter how impossible they were - we brought them to life. This feature is common to all Ukrainians. For example in the IT-field, we are building our own mini-Silicon Valley, and our startups are well-known around the world. For example, Unicorn Grammarly, which helps people to write in English fluently and correctly around the world. Created by Ukrainians.

Ukrainians have always beaten the expectations. As they do now - in front of the whole world. After the Revolution of Dignity in 2013 - also known as Euromaidan - , we realized that freedom costs much: it costs lives, blood, tears and destruction. And we pay that price. Since 2013, since the Crimea annexation, since the war in Donbass.
Our anthem says: "We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom" - this is what we, Ukrainians, have done and we are doing now. However, this price is unreasonably high.

A missile - мИсэл flew into the building in the centre of our capital Kyiv. Can you hear the whistling in the air, the sirens shouting? Can you imagine, as a building, like a house of cards, crumbles. Can you imagine how the walls tremble? As the fragments of windows' glass fly past you. And can you imagine yourself, pressing your body into the wall, hugging your children and feeling their hot tears running down your arms? This is hard to imagine in the 21st century, in a peaceful country. For you here in Berlin. So it was for us Ukrainians until February 24th.

I could not grasp war until I woke up one morning because of a loud explosion. It felt unreal. I looked at my children, who were still sleeping. I feeling of horror sank in. But I had no time to panic. I had to make decisions where to run with my children and what to take with me. First we escaped to my friends house out of the city. We were constantly watching the news and hoping the war would end soon.

And then on TV I saw a russian tank driving near my house. A russian tank roared at the playground where my children played, where parents always gathered together, where children learned about the world. I realized that we could not get back home in the near future. We went to the west of Ukraine. But we didn't feel safe there either. We decided to go further west, to Germany.

We are save here. but every minute outside my country, I think of our loved ones back home. Every piece of news about the war is breaking my heart. The aggressions are cutting off a piece of me. This pain is physical. It squeezes my chest until. It takes my breathe. My thoughts diverge constantly. I live through every death of a Ukrainian as the death of a loved one. And I have been in grief for sixty eight days.

I believe that Ukraine will win. No, we have already won. The whole world has seen how brave and fearless we are. How ready we are to fight for our freedom and principles. We have proved that we are worthy of being a member of the European Union. We are proud Europeans. This is our victory. And it's worth our fight.

But the price is to high. Russia kills our women, men and children. They take the take the childhood of our children - our future. It is real and cruel.

That is why I’m  asking  you, friends, to support Ukrainian foundations: those that save lives, provide food, shelter and equipment for our defense. They give hope. The hope which is so needed for Ukraine now.

The other day I found the keys to my house. From the house where my children's laughter was heard. From the house where I hosted my relatives and friends were heard. Where it was always cozy and safe. I held these keys firmly in my hand - and with them I held all the memories - so firmly as not to lose them. Because I know and believe that I will get back home.

I am Julia, I am Ukrainian. And I'm proud of that.

Слава Україні! 

"I was a TV producer. Now I’m a refugee."

My name is Olesya, I’m from Kyiv, Ukraine. Sixty-eight days ago I was a movie and TV producer and now I’m a refugee. One of 5.5 million Ukrainians, forced to go abroad. 


I’m very lucky to be here. And by here I do not mean Berlin, Germany or Europe. Here means planet Earth. I am lucky to be alive, with my kids and husband, lucky that my brother and his family are alive, and my parents are still in Kyiv and alive. I was in the warzone for only one week where I stayed under the gates of hell while millions of Ukrainians are now inside the hell of the Russian anti-human fascist war. Seven days in Ukraine under bombing, under the invasion of the Russian army. A week without sleep at night and almost without food - I physically couldn’t eat because of the primeval fear that I felt all that terrible week. Because when your normal happy life is interrupted by war - it is really scary. 


How did it start for me?


When the war began my family was separated. The school vacations had begun, and my husband (he is a Canadian Ukrainian) and our 5-year-old son went to Canada to visit his father. Sophia and I stayed home because we had a lot to do. I mentioned that I’m a movie producer, and we were preparing our new movie, a romantic comedy, to premiere at the cinema on March 1st. And also, as was typical for the last 17 years, I was working on our weekly TV show that is broadcast every Sunday on the biggest TV channel in Ukraine.


So on the evening of February 23rd, I was working. Then, Sophia and I were invited to a party for a movie premiere being held by my colleagues. We were at the movie theatre with lots of people, and then at an afterparty having fun. We came home after midnight. At 5:00 in the morning my husband, who at the time was in Canada my son,  woke me up with a phone call and said that the war had started.


Right away, like most Ukrainians, we decided to leave the city and we went to my brother’s cottage house in a little village 40km away from Kyiv, It’s close to and similar to Bucha, Irpin, and many other small villages that you’ve now heard of. We thought this would be a safer solution because, at the time, the most terrifying part of the war we could think of was bombs falling on our apartment. But with the recent news and pictures you all must have seen coming from out of Bucha, you see why we were all wrong. 

The family and I only stayed 1 full week in that house, but it was enough for us to have a feel of what hell is like. For the first 3 days, the war still felt unreal, since it hadn’t reached our own household. We spent every minute watching TV and reading the news, terrified of what was happening, unable to accept all of the violence. We were sure, that at any minute now, it would all end, Putin would be declared dead and we could just go back to our normal lives. But on the third day, we found out that Makariv, a village right next to us, had been occupied by the Russians. 

And this is when constant sounds of bombings, and planes flying just above our heads, destroyed our sense of security. For a while, we didn’t have electricity, water or the Internet, meaning we couldn’t even find out what was going on around us. We had some food, but only a limited supply that would last us maybe 2 weeks at most. So, my daughter Sophia and I, along with my brother and his family, just spent the time sitting on the couch in the living room, a place we thought would be safest if a bomb were to land on the house since there was no bomb shelter. My brother has two kids, who are too young to understand the meaning of war but could feel the fear in all of us. Every night, the local authorities would turn off the electricity and internet in the house, and we didn’t know whether it would come back in the morning. And during the night, we couldn’t even sleep, because of the sounds of constant bombing, and our minds wondering whether the next one will land on us. One morning, my brother’s nephew who was also with us, went on the second-floor balcony for a quick smoke, which is when he noticed 3 armed men coming out of the forest right in front of us. We didn’t know whether those were our soldiers or Russians and had no way to find out.


But the next nights we started noticing flashlights shining into our windows, which is when the entire situation became even more terrifying. And we realized that life like this was going to be short. We were closed in, incapable of leaving because we didn’t know what was going on outside of the village, we only knew that the one car of people that left to go to the west of Ukraine, was shot up. And this is when I realized, that, actually, food is pretty overrated, and water is very overrated, because literally you don’t need to eat every day, so I didn’t for 4-5 days. I just couldn’t, I was too worried, and it was fine, I didn’t even feel hungry. And I didn’t sleep for a couple of days, because I was constantly worried that a Russian soldier would enter our house, or that a bomb would land on us. We were actually very lucky that no soldiers entered any of the houses in our village during the week as they did in Bucha and Irpin. So, I realized that eating, sleeping and drinking weren’t that important, the most important is to have your loved ones with you and be safe. I also realized that dying isn’t the worst thing that could happen. So we weren’t really scared that a bomb would explode in our building with us inside because that would be instant death. What we were scared of was the violence that the Russian army has been bringing to our homeland. Like the rapes, the tortures, the completely stupid situations with children. I don’t even need to explain what I mean by that because, by now, you all know the stories.

"An apology after 8 years of war would mean nothing to us..."

There was a question asked today that I found to be quite interesting. It was about if Russia were to apologize tomorrow, would we Ukrainians forgive them. I am 16 years old, I consider myself to be able to represent the younger generation of Ukraine and those that will be growing up in the next 20 or 30 years. Those that will be in places of power and leading our country.


I will say that our ancestors never gave up. Not in one war that Ukraine participated in did we ever give up. We have been defeated, yes, numerous times, but we never gave up. 

An apology from Russia after 8 years of war, and yes, this war has been going on for 8 years, would mean nothing to us. What is important to us, is that Russia changes their own mentality, and its education system to include all of the terrible events that have happened over the years, which Russia simply ignores and denies the existence of. Like the multiple Holodomors in Ukraine, and even the genocides of other cultures and countries. We Ukrainians understand the pain of the Chechen people, we understand the Moldovans, and Georgians, all of which have been at war with Russia very recently. We understand the Kazakhs, and many other nations whose culture Russia has been trying to erase for centuries. 


We have a war with Russia literally every 100 years, dating back from the 15th century. But our ancestors made the mistake of forgiving Russia and even started at one point believing that we were brotherly nations. But we are now reminded, that that isn’t true. This is why a simple apology wouldn’t be enough. We, alongside basically every country that borders Russia, want to see change. We want things to actually become equal, to never have to experience cultural and linguistic cleansing ever again. To never have to hear explanations as to why our country is worse than Russia, or simply a fake creation. 

Because living with a neighbour as destructive as Russia is torture.

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