It is Easter today, a holiday that we have traditionally celebrated as a family. And at the same time, it is exactly two months since the Russian Federation has started a full-scale invasion of our territory; bombarding our cities, killing, maiming and raping thousands of our people, and forcing millions to flee their homes.
Because of this, today we cannot gather as a family around the table: my children are in Warsaw, my sister is in TDU (territorial defense unit) and she is not allowed to leave. Although Kyiv is quiet now, deadly battles are still happening in the East and South. Yesterday they fired at Odessa, today – Kremenchuk, and they are constantly bombarding the surviving Ukrainians in Mariupol.
HOW DO WE CELEBRATE AT SUCH A TIME?
First of all, everyone tries to provide the military with Easter cakes and Easter eggs. Just a great deal of cargo was sent to the front, which brought a festive treat to those for whom we pray every day and for whom I personally raise every first toast. The Armed Forces are our gods, with no exaggeration. It is pretty sad at home though. I see broken families suffering. Women with children abroad, and even though they are glad to be safe, still, they are not the masters of these dwellings: many live with relatives, desperately missing their husbands and home. They plant their plants on the windowsill instead of the garden. They bake Easter cakes even if they have not done so before. Of course, they try to be useful whilst there: some send money, some consult compatriots for free, some source and post requested stuff. One of my acquaintances even organized the entire Ukrainian school in the Netherlands! But still, everyone wants to come back home…
And here their husbands suffer from loneliness, they want to hug their wives and kiss their children. It seems to them that if they are not taken to the front, they are not doing enough for Victory. I see and hear this from many. One of my friends revealed that he even sleeps hugging the pillows of his wife and children, that’s how much he misses them. And these little tragedies are at every turn, in every face. However, this is not considered a tragedy now, because we have bigger dramas: burying the dead, treating the wounded, trying to bring the raped to consciousness… Several hundred people came to honor the dead young soldier just before Easter in our town. Surviving all of this and keeping sane is a tricky task. It is relevant not only to those who are directly physically injured, but to our entire society, at least those who do not close their eyes on the things happening around them.
ANOTHER BURNING QUESTION: WHEN CAN I RETURN?
It is reported that more Ukrainians are now returning than leaving. Despite the authorities asking to wait. Especially when it comes to the areas that have been occupied: there are still plenty of explosive devices as the Russian soldiers planted mines everywhere when they retreated. And there are unexploded shells! In the Cherkasy region, the Uman LGA has suffered the most: demining must be carried out here at any field before sowing.
Nevertheless, Cherkasy residents who are abroad keep asking a question: is it possible to come back? My youngest son now calls every day and says: Mom, when can I return to my normal life? For me, and for others, it is not very clear how to reply. Of course, everyone wants Victory as soon as possible, but what if the war continues for another year? They cannot be there that long. Or can they?
In the meantime, the city of Cherkasy has changed again: there are now a lot of people here. A large number of displaced people. This is evident from the car numberplates, and how these cars are driven in an unfamiliar city. This is noted by people from multiunit-buildings where the playgrounds are full of children who are evidently not local. This is noticeable in the huge queues at refugee assistance centers. These centers are organized by both local authorities and volunteers. For example, one of them was founded by a group of real estate agents. They are deprived of the opportunity to earn as the likelihood to sell a property is now close to zero. Every day more than a hundred people come to them on Mytnytska Street. Another one, a Christian center, was founded by a Britt. 500 food kits are distributed there on Thursdays. Overall, about 100,000 displaced people have settled in our region and they continue coming in.
My organization and I, like many other Cherkasy residents, are also helping: we buy stuff for shelters, order required supplie for the military. Every day we take something somewhere and pass it on. This, of course, is not comparable to large volunteer centres. However, each of us is a drop in the ocean and this makes us strong. But the inability to plan beyond just a few days is very exhausting. These two months have felt like living a separate life…