Opinion: The Russian invasion through the eyes of a Ukrainian


Sophia Yereshchenko (left), Olesya Mukha (middle), and Olesya Chernenko (right) during a rally in support of Ukraine in St. Louis, on Feb. 26, 2022.

Sofiya Melnychuk, Culture Editor

Wednesday night, 10 p.m.

I’m sitting in church and keep hearing my phone buzzing. My first thought was “Who’s texting me? It’s 5 a.m. in Ukraine, so all of my family and friends are asleep. I’m in church with most of my friends, so I have no idea who’s texting me.”

And then I checked my DMs, where at least four people texted me saying that they’re sorry for what’s happening, checking in on me, and asking me if I’m okay. I felt nothing but complete confusion. Until I checked the news. My heart dropped, I started shaking, and my whole body went numb. All of the headlines saying “Ukraine is invaded. The war has begun.”

The service in the church was about to close, maybe another 10 minutes left. But I didn’t hear anything after reading the news. After the service, I tried to act normal and not totally freak out because the church was full of my friends and people having fun, I didn’t want to ruin it.

I was sitting at the table with my friends trying to have a normal conversation while constantly reading the news and checking if any of my family members were online. The only thing on my mind was “My home country is invaded. The war began. And my family is there.”

The more news I read, the bigger my anxiety was. Thankfully, I was in a church where the pastor was still there, praying for people. I rushed back inside to see the pastor and ask him to pray with me and for me, for Ukraine. Not much came out of my mouth, though. I just started crying and all I could say was “I just read the news… two minutes ago. Ukraine was invaded. I…I really need a prayer.”

My whole body was shivering and it felt like a nightmare. It still does. I am thousands of miles away from Ukraine and my family and I feel like I’m going mad…I cannot even try to imagine what every Ukrainian must be going through right now. With rockets and bombs dropping. With emergency sirens blaring. With people dying.

My friends keep sending me voice messages where they’re crying and afraid of any noise outside, not knowing what it brings. My family is trying to set up our basement with candles, blankets, and canned food so in case of bombing they have a place to hide. In the past 24 hours, they hid in the basement at least three times. And believe me, Ukrainian basements are not fancy or comfortably equipped. Usually, they don’t even have heat and/or electricity.

People in Ukraine don’t sleep because they’re afraid not to wake up, or wake up from emergency sirens or the sound of a foreign helicopter. Those in bigger cities like Kyiv who live in apartments often don’t have basements. That is why Ukrainian underground subways are now crowded with people, children, and pets sleeping on the floor.

I read an article a couple of hours ago that there was a baby born on a subway platform. People are in survival mode. They are terrorized and physically distraught 24/7. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting deadly battles and risking their lives for Ukraine each minute.

Russia, unfortunately, is a strong opponent, but I still have hope. Ukraine’s army is exceedingly strong and is so motivated to save our land. I am beyond proud to have the opportunity to call myself a Ukrainian, especially in these times.

With the war getting worse and worse, many EU countries, the UK, and the U.S. have started supporting Ukraine, not only with words but with real actions. And that’s exactly what Ukraine needs right now. I keep seeing this quote tweeted by Edmond Huet all over the internet today: “If Russia stops fighting, there will be no more war. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no more Ukraine.”

The war has been going on for a week, but it already feels like an eternity. This war has already stolen so many innocent lives. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be ending very soon.