Keeping the Hope Alive

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has put such a toll on the citizens of both countries.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Twenty people crammed into a four-person bunker. Flames burning all around. Sirens ringing outside. Sleeping for only minutes at a time. Waking up to the sound of screams of mothers, fathers, children, men, women, grandparents. Everything is in chaos. No one knows what will happen next.

This is how the kids and family of the woman who raised me are now living in Ukraine. She became my babysitter when I was two years old and stayed with me until I was 14. My parents hired her because they wanted someone who shared the same Russian-Ukrainian heritage as us to take care of me. While my parents were working, she watched me all day and instilled in me my work ethic, kindness, morals, and manners. She taught me all the Russian I know and used to tell me about her happy life back in Ukraine. She made sure I had the right priorities and balance in my life. Every day after school, I would tell her about my day and she would always give me advice about school or friendships. In September, she left my family in New York to go back to her beautiful home country of Ukraine. Even though I no longer see her, we still talk at least once a week and update each other about our lives. I would tell her about all my new friends and activities and she would tell me about her new life back overseas. She was expecting to reunite with her kids and grandkids in Ukraine. However, she was told she must stay in Russia until she could get the proper documents for Ukrainian entry. She was scheduled to go to Mariupol, her home city, in March.

With one order, all her plans were disrupted. The Russian president made a choice to attack Ukraine without input from his people, yet Russians are all still thought to be in support of and are blamed for the murders of hundreds of innocent civilians. Most of the civilians in both Russia and Ukraine are related not just through culture and language, but through blood. Most families have members in both countries, and no one wants to fight against their own family. Yet in one of the countries, people are now forced to stop their lives to worry about keeping themselves and their loved ones safe from bomb attacks. For the last three weeks, my nanny has sat glued to her TV screen. As prices go up and everyone sits at home unemployed, she hopes to see something, whether it be good or bad. She hasn’t heard from her sister, who has three teenage kids, in six days. She watches from a distance as her sister’s hometown of Kharkov is being bombed, and hopes that somehow she has found a safe place to survive. This year was supposed to be the year my nanny reunited with her mother after over a decade. Her mother can no longer walk or speak well, and she barely ever gets up. Due to this, she can’t get to a bunker, so the rest of the family had to leave her for a shelter belowground while she remains in the apartment, prone to bombs or the shattering of glass. Once a day, someone runs to get her food and help her use the bathroom. And then they leave again. This is the effect of war. People have to choose whose lives will come first, and forget the luxuries they were accustomed to, in order to survive. While they are being attacked by soldiers of their own blood, they must struggle to find any grain of food or protection.

The only way to get through this is to keep the hope alive that soon everything will be fine. My nanny tells me that she believes her sister is alive and that there is just no connection. She hopes that the food will last and that negotiations will produce results soon. I hope that my babysitter will stop worrying. Maybe, one day soon she will hear from her sister again. Or learn that her mother is alive and that the Russian troops have retreated. Maybe one day she won’t be scared out of her mind about never seeing her family again.

All the people in my Russian-Ukrainian community have relatives or friends that are currently experiencing the same emotions as they watch their friends fear for their lives or be blamed for an act that they truly had no say in. Although we are so far away, we worry about all the people hiding, fighting, or waiting for any news. We pray for the fighting to end. For families to reunite and for the country to stop burning. Everyone around the world, especially most Russians and Ukranians, are hoping for a solution in order to start peace. They don’t want to keep fighting their own brothers who they were laughing and working with just several months ago.