Photo credits: Marek Antoni Iwańczuk
As expats, immigrants, or just students abroad our lives happen outside of our home countries. But as we find our paths while living in foreign lands, the bond with our motherlands still persists. It’s in the things we miss when we’re homesick, the familiar faces, the long Skype calls. It’s about making every moment count.
But what happens when, one day, you wake up thousands of kilometres from your home country, to find it engulfed in a foreign invasion?
Russian aggression against Ukraine has been a catastrophic event. It was also one that has united Ukrainian nation, no matter where they live.
We talked with Vladislav Shutko of the Cambridge University Student Society and Oleg Rogoza, a past member of the KCL Ukrainian Society about their experiences during the very first days of the war.
The Lambert: What were you doing when the news of the Russian attack came to you?
Vladyslav Shutko: I was staying up late studying on the evening of the 23rd of February and I slept in the following day. I woke up to a phone full of missed messages and calls informing me that Russia had launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Oleg Rogoza: So I just woke up on the morning of the 24th to the horrifying images of aerial bombardments of Kyiv and other cities. It took me a while to realise what is happening and it was a shock. The first couple of days I could barely pull myself together, but the initial shock turned into energy to help and make a difference...so in the following days I engaged myself with the volunteering efforts here in Slovenia.
TL: How is the war impacting your daily life?
VS: This terrible full-scale war has changed my life dramatically; everything, from academic workload to hobbies, has become secondary and insignificant in the grand scheme of things (viz. war). It feels utterly surreal to close my eyes and clearly recollect certain places in Ukraine that have already been (or are currently being) shelled.
It is for this reason that we, as students residing abroad, are trying to do our best by organising peaceful demonstrations, sending money, raising money and raising awareness.
It does impact my daily life to the extent that I call my parents and family every day to check in on them. Additionally, because I got really active with the volunteering efforts, I am super busy helping organise humanitarian aid, organising protests, giving interviews, etc. But other than that I am still going to work and my life is not nearly as impacted as the lives of those back in Ukraine.
TL: If you were to send a message to the world on behalf of Ukrainians, what would it be?
VS: Despite our love for the land, our picturesque nature, and architecture – I firmly believe that Ukraine is the people. Therefore, Ukraine will always persist for as long as we do, and persist we will!
Whilst we are still asking for more support – I would like to express sincere gratitude for the help already provided to the populace of Ukraine by our friends in the international community; it shall never be forgotten! Particularly, thank you for the support provided by the readers of this piece and our dear friends – Polish people!
OR: My message right now is ‘do not let this become normality’. This war has been going on for weeks now, so the media presence is dying down a bit. If the world 'gets tired' of war news and lets Russia get away with what they are doing on a daily basis, it would be a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions. Keep supporting Ukraine and opposing Russia. The world's support must not stop until we win this war.
Below you’ll find some useful links if you want to help Ukraine:
https://www.pah.org.pl/ - Polska Akcja Humanitarna is a direct help Polish NGO, organizing basic necessities, psychological help and other forms of support for refugees arriving in Poland as well as people in Ukraine harmed by the war.
https://savelife.in.ua/en/donate/ - Come Back Alive in UA is a foundation started in 2014 that provides support for the Ukrainian Army.
https://bank.gov.ua/en/news/all/natsionalniy-bank-vidkriv-spetsrahunok-dlya-zboru-koshtiv-na-potrebi-armiyi - an account opened by the National Bank of Ukraine to collect funds for the Ukrainian Army.
https://publicystyka.ngo.pl/badzmy-solidarni-z-ukraina - a good collection of sources of information on how you can help.