Emma student Yaryna K. ’24—while trying to focus on her studies and on-campus life—is also worrying over the safety of her family back in Ukraine, and raising her voice to make a difference in any way she can. On Wednesday, March 2, Yaryna traveled to New York City to present a statement at the United Nations
. The next week, she shared the following reflections with the Emma community during Morning Reports:
I found out that Russia declared war at around 11:00 p.m. by accidentally checking the news before going to bed. In the comment section, people wrote that they heard explosions in their cities—Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and many others. I rushed to call my parents. They said that they woke up because of a loud sound coming from the airport nearby. My little sister was afraid to stay at our apartment and quickly packed things that she felt she needed, like photo albums of our family. My mum and sister later left for a town in the west of Ukraine, while my dad stayed to help our town’s territorial defense unit.
The next day, a Russian helicopter landed near my grandmother’s house in Mykolaiv. Luckily, that battalion was destroyed, but in the last five days Russian forces have constantly been trying to advance on the city. These attacks have been repelled and cost a lot of soldiers and weapons to Russia; but I have been checking the news on Mykolaiv every five minutes to check for an air attack emergency so I can make sure that my grandparents have hidden in the bomb shelter.
On Saturday, I learned that there are a lot of fallen shells in my grandparents’ neighborhood where I spent every summer of my childhood playing in blossoming gardens with other kids. A 17-year-old teenager stepped on a shell by accident and died.
After a lack of success in trying to occupy major Ukrainian cities, Russian soldiers, having no dignity or morals, decided to hurt civilians in these cities for opposing their “Russian world.” They have been bombing indiscriminately, using weapons forbidden by the Geneva convention. Russian bombs and missiles fell on 211 schools, a maternity hospital, university, dozens of apartment blocks, a central square in Kharkiv, and many other places that cannot be classified as a “strategic military object” by any means, as Russian officials are continuing to lie. While Ukrainian air forces are doing their best to take down as many Russian planes, helicopters, and missiles as possible, Ukraine is in great need of better air defense systems. If you are a citizen of the US, it would be a great help if you wrote to your senator, congressperson, or the White House to advocate for more defensive weapons for Ukraine.
Constant bombing of Ukrainian cities forced many Ukrainians to leave their homes and everything they worked for behind to seek refuge in other countries of Europe. This, and the fact that Russia is shooting at a necessary civilian infrastructure, has caused a grave humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. If you are willing to and are able to, you can donate to organizations providing help to refugees and people in cities that are being harmed by the war.
In the first days of the full-force war, when I was feeling very low, I saw a photo of an elderly woman from Ukraine saying that she “survived Stalin, survived Hitler, and will survive Putin.” At that moment, I understood the tremendous strength of the Ukrainian nation, which suffered through so many attempts to destroy our identity and our struggle for freedom and democracy—genocide by hunger in 1930s, mass executions of intelligentsia, ethnic cleansings, deportations, discrimination, and censure of Ukrainian language and culture. But still we prevailed, having created an independent democratic nation-state. Now looking at the unyielding courage and fighting spirit of our soldiers and civilians from all walks of life, I am more than ever proud to be Ukrainian and sure of our victory.
Thank you, Yaryna, for your willingness to share your personal experience; we appreciate the opportunity to show our support during this difficult time.
Yaryna has provided resources for those who wish to support Ukraine by writing to representatives
in their own country. The school has also made resources available through the DEI Office and History Department in order to help students better understand the facts around the crisis in Ukraine.