A message from Ukrainian immigrant and Fragasso team member, Serhiy Zayats
On February 24th, Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the largest military attack in Europe since World War II. Even though Ukraine has the second largest standing army in Europe (Russia is the largest), it is severely outmatched in weaponry and capability. Some in the west believed that Ukraine would fall within a couple days. To their surprise, and Putin’s, Ukraine still stands and is heroically fighting for its survival and the continuity of democracy that the Ukrainian people paid for with their lives since gaining independence in 1991.
So far Putin’s war in Ukraine received international condemnation with widespread sanctions on the state, Putin himself, and Russia’s oligarchs. Although the sanctions are causing pain now, triggering a financial crisis in Russia, cratering the Russian ruble and will most certainly lead to more pain for the Russian people the longer they are in place, it does not seem to deter Putin’s goals for Ukraine. In addition to the sanctions, many countries have provided military and financial support, but it does not seem to be enough as tens of thousands of volunteers in Ukraine have signed up to fight for their homeland but cannot join the fight because Ukraine does not have enough weapons, helmets, and body armor for them.1 Ukrainians are fighting in any way they can. Some are making Molotov cocktails to use against the Russians army. Others have even thrown themselves in front of Russian tanks to stop their advances into Ukrainian cities.
The war has created a rapid refugee crisis in Europe, causing more than 2.5 million Ukrainians to flee since the war began.2 Here in the Unites States, Ukraine is no longer the country referenced in the subway scene of Seinfeld or a line from the movie “The Italian Job.” Even though it is thousands of miles away, the war has an impact on our lives. While all of us collectively feel certain repercussions, like the price of gas at the pump, other reverberations impact each of us independently.
Many are falling in love with Ukrainian President Zelensky’s inspiring and patriotic speeches. Others are moved by a video of a courageous Ukrainian grandma who confronted a Russian soldier and gave him sunflower seeds to put in his pocket so that his body would serve as fertilizer when he gets killed on Ukrainian soil. Others are reading about the improbable feats that spread on social media and hoping that they turn out to be true, such as the “Ghost of Kyiv.” Even though it is most likely a myth, stories of him shooting down six Russian jets in the first few days of the war and becoming the first ace pilot since World War II are spreading like wildfire on social media. Some are moved by more tragic and harrowing imagery coming out of Ukraine of civilian casualties from indiscriminate Russian shelling of residential areas or civilians getting shot by Russian troops for simply voicing their demands that the Russian occupiers leave their land.
For many of us, the impact of the war is felt on a more personal level. Maybe you have visited Ukraine in the past, or you have friends and family who reside there. Or maybe you are like me, and you are a native of the country. Whatever the case, the conflict directly impacts your life.
I was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States with my immediate family. Most of my relatives still live in Ukraine, so when Russia officially declared war and started their campaign, I was scared for their lives. I still am. My morning routine now consists of reading through updates on the situation in Ukraine before signing in to work and my after-work routine is checking in with relatives and reading and watching videos of the devastation in Ukraine.
One of my cousins is part of the Territorial Defense Force, the military reserve component of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. One of their many tasks is to shuttle refugees who are fleeing the fighting in the eastern part of the country. So, when I heard that the car his group is using was on the verge of breaking, I decided to get my immediate family and friends to pitch in enough funds so that they could buy a new car. We are currently trying to figure out a way to get the money to them, but it is difficult due to the rules around money transfers and withdrawals because of the martial law in Ukraine.
There are ways that you can help. Donations can be made to organizations that are dedicated to helping the Ukrainian military, volunteers, refugees, or civilians. You can help the military by donating to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense through a special account set up by the National Bank of Ukraine. If you would rather not support the military, you can donate to the Ukrainian Red Cross or international fundraisers for Emergency Humanitarian Aid.
You can also help in non-monetary ways. You can spread awareness on social media, join protests against Russia’s invasion in your local communities, or contact your political leaders and urge them to support more military assistance to Ukraine. Urging our political leaders to send more military aid to Ukraine could be just as important as financial aid.
Please visit https://www.standwithukraine.how/ on more information on how you can help.