What can we do to help?
The people of Ukraine have endured significant hardships over the past 30 years. Since Ukraine’s independence in December of 1991, the country has dealt with political pressure from Russia and the possibility of their right to self-governance being forcibly taken from them. The tension has reached a climax in the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Since this day, the people of Ukraine have experienced violence, destruction, and disruption in their daily lives.
While Mt. A has released an official statement supporting Ukraine and its people, it can be difficult for some people to feel connected to a tragedy happening so far away. Although readers see these events transpire on the news, it is important to remember that this is impacting real people, including those right here in Sackville.
Iruna Zadoroghna is a Ukrainian obstetrician and gynaecologist who has practiced in Ukraine for almost 25 years. Zadoroghna moved to Sackville in June of 2021, and many of her family members, including her daughter and elderly mother, remain in Ukraine. In her words, the situation in Ukraine “is extremely difficult, entire towns and villages have been destroyed, and children and women are being killed.”
Zadoroghna expressed her concern for her family who lives across the country of Ukraine, including her sister’s family. As a gynecologist, Zadoroghna is especially concerned with the lack of maternal and prenatal care available to those who are pregnant in the current conditions. Zadoroghna says that “women give birth in basements in conditions of complete unsanitary conditions.”
Although she is deeply worried about her family, Zadoroghna expressed her gratitude towards the Armed Forces of Ukraine. She believes that “if it were not for these guys who defend Ukraine, I think there would be no one to help.”
Notably, ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC is encouraging the people of Ukraine to email him messages, pictures, videos, anything to document the–in Zadoroghna’s words–“genocide against the Ukrainian people by the Russian army.”
Christina Stasula is another local Sackville community member who is working to help those in Ukraine. A second generation Ukrainian herself, Stasula grew up celebrating her family’s culture and remains connected to her family still in the country. To her, and many others, the crisis is “devastating, unimaginable, and heartbreaking.”
Stasula says that the “invasion in Ukraine is unprovoked and is based on a campaign of misinformation that Putin’s regime has been practicing for decades.” She also acknowledged the pain of Russian people who do not agree with their leader’s actions but are not allowed to speak up.
Stasula agreed with many commentators that this invasion is an attack on democracy itself. While Putin claims that Ukraine “is not a legitimate country with its own culture,” Stasula asserts that “Ukrainian culture has existed for more than a 1000 years before, even before the idea of Russia ever existed. The world needs to know that this is not a war desired or supported by the Russian people, instead it is just Putin’s war, his agenda alone and the oligarchs that support him.”
With extended family in Ukraine, Stasula was asked about their current lived experience. “Their experience is horrific,” she said, explaining how her family is living in make-shift shelters amid the chaos of their ruined cities. One of her cousins, Nazar Kalba, wrote her a letter describing the conditions that he and his young family are living in.
Though Kalba and his wife continue to work, his children are no longer attending school. Kalba says that his “rhythm of life” has completely changed since the invasion on February 24. Now, every night he and his wife run errands for the military and for victims of airstrikes at various checkpoints. Kalba says that the air-raid alarm sounds three or four times a day, during which he and his family must hide in the basement. Kalba says watching the news and seeing the bombing of cities makes it “hard to believe that this is possible in the 21st century.” Some of Kalba’s friends were not able to leave bigger cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv, and he said, “the hardest thing is to watch how children suffer.”
Stasula’s cousin said that Putin “stole the future of all Ukrainian children, [and] Ukrainians today have no plans for the future.” Kalba asserted that a key move to end their suffering would be if NATO countries were to “close the skies over Ukraine” to stop air strikes and missiles. Kalba believes that unless this happens, “it will be a disaster.”
Enerhodar is a city in southeastern Ukraine, where six nuclear power plants exist. Kalba is not the only one who fears the consequences of an air strike hitting one or more of these plants, especially in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Though a heavy letter, Kalba leaves his cousin with notes of hope. “We are strong, we will not give up, NEVER!!! We will defend our land, our homeland, with or without NATO. Because we are Ukrainians. Glory to Ukraine!!!”
Despite the dismal reality of the situation, Zadoroghna and Stasula remain adamant that change can be made, even right here in Sackville. Both women are active on Facebook to raise awareness and spread the message of what the people of Ukraine need: warm clothes, hygiene products, and medicine.
Stasula has organized a flag raising and a speech at Town Hall with the Mayor of Sackville. The Town of Sackville has also agreed to accept donations at Town Hall, mainly essentials “to support the soldiers and civilians still stuck in the heart of the battle.” While these actions do help, Stasula knows it is not enough. “We need to write to all members of parliament. The message must be clear. They need to clear the skies of Ukraine from the constant bombarding of bombs, air missiles, etc…It must end now!”
For those looking to help, spreading the word about the donation drive at Town Hall is an essential step. Writing to members of Parliament to demand action to help Ukraine is another way that Stasula believes the population can voice their concerns. While far away, the crisis in Ukraine affects everyone, no matter where they are. It is important to remember the people the crisis is affecting, and to help however one can.