Trigger warning: The following content includes descriptions of war.
Estimated read time: 6 minutes
Realities from on the Ground
We are taught from a young age that the world is unfair. Growing up in the small, secluded town of Poltava, Ukraine, I was reminded of this almost every day. Yet, it was on February 24, 2022 that I truly realized just how unfair the world is.
The entire town, including my family, was awoken by military airplanes at 6:20 a.m. Not knowing what they were, I froze in place. We were not sure what we had heard but, somehow, we knew it was not good. Then, text messages from friends, family, and even people I barely knew came flooding in: “The war has started.”
I held out hope that they were all wrong, that it was all a silly prank or online gossip. But it wasn’t. The second I turned on my computer, I was horrified to see that war had, in fact, broken out. It was at this moment that I realized none of our lives would ever be the same.
That morning, school was canceled, banks were closed, and panic soon took over the town.
A few days in, we heard our first air-raid siren. “ALL TO SHELTER” messages flashed on every television channel. In the following 40 days since then, there hasn’t been a day when we have spent less than five hours in a shelter.
Most people in our town could not afford to flee and have had to face everything head-on. Hand grenades hidden in children’s toys out on the streets, neon yellow Xs left by Russian military forces on our buildings to mark potential locations for future air attacks, and rockets–from which everyone hides, knowing quite well that, even in hiding, one’s chances of survival are slim–all have taken a great toll on people’s mental states.
As for me, it comes in waves – the fear, the sadness, the numbness. For the first couple of days, war was all I could think about. Then, it became our “new normal.” When the first rocket hit one of our town’s buildings, however, I was back to square one. With a mixture of overworking myself in an effort to forget where I was and lying absolutely still unable to move a single limb, the first 40 days flew by fast, yet not fast enough.
From Global Solidarity Springs Local Action
When the war first broke out, I had been a part of Girl Up for only six months. I couldn’t even imagine how responsive the global community would be. On that very first day, I received tons of messages from Girl Up Club members around the world, people I’d barely crossed paths with, and it suddenly felt like I gained at least a dozen new friends. Not just coworkers or partners – friends.
Talking to these girls, I jumped straight into problem-solving mode. Some people didn’t quite understand the significance of the unfolding events here in Eastern Ukraine, and we wanted to stress the magnitude of just how much the civilian population has been affected by the attacks. This is how the idea for educational Zoom sessions was born.
I partnered up with other Girl Up leaders in India and Brasil to hop on calls with their Club members and anyone else who was interested to talk about the situation here in Ukraine. I wanted to help those outside of the country better understand what exactly is going on in Ukraine, how people really feel about everything here, and what can be done to actually help civilians.
We’ve seen an increasing number of elderly Ukrainians unable to support themselves in the harsh new conditions they are faced with: raising prices, lines longer than what they can physically endure, and the danger of leaving one’s home due to heightened crime rates and looting.
In total, most elderly people in Ukraine receive pension and social security checks equivalent to $100 which, even before the war, was not nearly enough to make a living. When the war broke out, this became a more serious and urgent issue.
That is why our Girl Up Ukraine Club made it our responsibility to start the “Help Ukrainian Elderly” project. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been raising funds and partnering with other Clubs to develop this project even further.
We will be creating elderly care packages that consist of enough food and other necessities to last one person one month, at least. Each care package will also include a hand-painted card from one of the local kindergartners and some financial support. Girl Up Ukraine Club members will then be hand delivering these packages to the elderly in need all around our neighborhoods.
We want to strive for quality over quantity with the care packages we create and focus on the individuality of each and every case to make sure every person is receiving the best aid based on their unique dietary preferences, doctor recommendations, and sanitary conditions. Although we take into account each individual’s situation, all care packages include foods rich in nutrition, vitamins, and minerals and sanitation items to protect against COVID-19 and similar widespread diseases, enough to last one person 4-5 weeks on average.
The elderly men and women who need our help are also eager to share their life stories with everyone, so we will be uploading those along with messages they want today’s youth to hear to our social media page.
My fellow Girl Up Ukraine Club members and I feel extremely grateful to have the opportunity to help others in times as tough as these. Although it can feel overwhelming and unfair at times, we need to stay together, support one another, and help those less fortunate than us–even in the hardest of situations.
If there is one thing I’ve learned this far, it’s that very little is truly under our control, except how we react to the challenges with which we are faced. We’ve decided that no matter what happens next, we will devote our fullest attention and resources to those for whom this situation may feel even more unfair.
If you are interested in supporting Girl Up Ukraine’s “Help Ukrainian Elderly” project, you can contact the Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Instagram page. All donations will go directly toward the elderly care packages and donors can also include a message to be sent with the packages.
This post was written by a Girl Up Club leader and reflects her personal thoughts and experiences. Girl Up stands behind our Community members and encourages them to raise their voices for issues they care about. Our top priority is the safety, security, and wellbeing of our members in all aspects of the work they do in their communities around the world.