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March 24, 2022

1 Month Later: The Reality of Living through War in 2022




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Svitlana Khrystenko

Innovation Programme Manager & Service Designer

WorldStartup aims to bring positive changes into the world every day. We are a global platform and we think it’s our responsibility to support the people in need around the world, especially in these hard times. Today we want to introduce to you one of our colleagues at WorldStartup Svitlana Khrystenko, she is a Ukrainian living in The Netherlands for more than 5 years. In her story, she describes her personal experience with the recent war in Ukraine and how her family living there lives with it. In the end, she suggests practical steps each of us can take to support Ukraine.

Svitlana's story:

I was born in the city of Kharkiv, in the east of Ukraine, next to the border with Russia. I enjoyed my childhood and teenage years there. I was surrounded by my family and friends. It was a very pleasant experience to live there.

When I turned 19, I made a big move in my life. I decided to study abroad to embrace a new adventure. The choice fell on The Netherlands. I packed my bags and with small tears on my cheeks, I left to build my future abroad while my whole family stayed in Kharkiv.

On the first day of the Russian invasion, my city was directly hit. My family experienced the bombing first-hand early in the morning. Later on, my father shared with me videos of shocking sounds of shootings that morning.

The day that it happened, I woke up very early from a message about the invasion. I immediately called my parents. Thank God, they picked up the phone. I never heard them being this scared and emotional. It was the scariest morning of our lives because we didn’t know what was going on.

Throughout the first days, I felt very devastated. I was reading the news 24/7 and I didn’t have such a good connection with my family because the power lines were damaged. I remember being afraid of loud noises outside and being scared to leave my apartment. Those days I took all the situation on myself and just wanted to stay home and be safe. Meanwhile, I was not sure if my family was safe and that made me especially worried.

After a couple of days, my mom with my older brother and his family left to the west of the country. It was unclear for them where they would go, where to hide, or what to do, but they realised that staying in the city that is being bombed non-stop is not safe. They were traveling for several days throughout the country when they finally reached a safe village close to the border with Romania where they continue to stay today.

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"In these times, we all should remember what is truly important to us, what we should spend more time on. For me, both of these answers are family".

On the other hand, my father and my second brother stayed. They stayed because they needed to protect the house, the city, and the country. Both of them are now in a very dangerous situation. My home town of Kharkiv has been bombed the most since the war started. More than 1000 buildings have been damaged and these numbers are increasing every day. Hundreds of people have died in my city alone, not even mentioning other cities like Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kyiv, or Kherson.

The story of brave men in my family doesn’t end with my close relatives. My cousin made a very hard and honourable decision to become part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He is now on the front, defending Ukraine with armour and spirit. I can say that I am worried about my family but at the same time I am proud that they are so strong and brave. People like them, who fight for what is theirs, give me hope.

When situations like this happen, you start reevaluating your values and life itself. I can definitely say that there is nothing more important than family. And as long as my family is safe, I can function and exist.

Today is the 24th of March. Russia continues to attack Ukraine, killing people and destroying peaceful cities. When I think about it, it feels like it just happened but it’s already been a month since Russia invaded Ukraine. I know that the war can not last forever but it can last for a long time and this scares me the most. I have no doubts Ukraine will win this war but only with a lot of losses that can not be returned.

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My main message after all of this is dedicated to Western society that supports Ukraine today. Please keep doing it. The war has not ended yet and Ukraine needs your support now more than ever. Please donate to trusted charities and share the truth about what is happening. Don’t be indifferent, because the war is still going on and the consequences will stay for many years.

Some things that you can do already now:

  • Buy Ukrainian. There are many products that Ukraine produces, some of them you can find on Etsy, others you can discover online.
  • Hire Ukrainian people, most of them come here as specialists and from 1 April, you can legally hire Ukrainians in The Netherlands.
  • Offer to house here.
  • Attend events that are organised to support Ukraine.
  • Follow to get the latest updates on the current needs and ways to support Ukraine from The Netherlands.
  • Lastly, don’t be indifferent, the world will benefit from your support!

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