Editor’s note: Viktoriya Magid is a Ukrainian-born psychologist whose private practice is located in Mount Pleasant. We deeply appreciate that she wrote this story. To protect the people mentioned in this article, we remove last names.
As of this writing, it’s hard to believe that it’s been ten days since the children of Ukraine woke up fearless, in their own beds, knowing what the day, the week, will bring — ten days since the freedom of my country, my people have been violently called into question. Ten days since my conversations with dear childhood friends and loved ones have focused on vacations, new jobs, relationships, and plans for the future. With the invasion of Ukraine, the world has turned upside down and as the shock slowly dissipates, reality begins to set in.
The frontline fighter
Having lived in Ukraine until I was 18, I still have many friends in various parts of the country. My dear friend, Dimitri, 41, recently volunteered for the front lines. Unfortunately, he knows war well – he fought to protect Ukraine during a much less publicized conflict with Russia in 2014. He and I were born in Kherson – a southern city on the Dnieper, which has was the first major city to fall since the Russian invasion.
Dimitri wrote to me this morning: “They just came in and started shooting innocent people. People who just didn’t have the chance to run off the streets and hide. They were shooting at anything that moved. On the day Kherson fell, 200 civilians were killed or injured. He went on to say that the most important current needs are ammunition and medicine. “Overall, if I’m being honest, it’s pretty awful. But we are not afraid. We are ready to fight for our land. The Russians have been hitting us pretty hard lately, but it just gives us more resolve to fight back – because we are all so deeply proud of our people and the strength of our nation.
He also shared that he hadn’t changed or taken off his shoes for three days. “I will be ready for them,” he said with conviction.
Living through a mother’s nightmare
Another dear childhood friend, Elena, 42, fled Odessa on the second day of the Russian invasion with her husband and four children. Odessa is known as the “Pearl of the Rear Sea” or the “South Capitol”. It’s a beautiful historic city much like Charleston.
Elena texted me the first day. “We hear the bombs! I’m so scared!” Since then, the family has been hiding in a nearby village where things seemed safe at the time. But as the hours passed, she said he became more and more clear that this was an invasion of massive proportions and there was no hiding.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said on the phone the other day. Crying and whispering, so as not to panic her little ones, “If we stay, we’ll probably be trapped here…I know the tanks are still coming and many roads are already blocked. If we leave, what can I do? Alone with four children, on the other side of the border? They won’t let (her husband) come with us… I’m so scared and just don’t know what is the right thing to do. Elena’s husband belongs to the category of men who are of fighting age between 18 and 60 years old and who are not allowed to leave the country in case their help is needed to defend the land. Elena feels helpless, stuck in a mother’s nightmare.
“We will win because we know who we are protecting”
Lviv, which is the largest city in western Ukraine, is quiet tonight, my friend Peter, 43, said. Lviv has been largely spared so far, as Russian troops have not fully advanced west. A civilian volunteer ready to defend his country, Peter said he felt ready.
When I asked him about his wife and two little girls, he answered vaguely. “They are safe.” I know all too well the need to speak in code when it comes to the Russian regime; he does not want his wife and children to be found. “We are ready,” said Peter, referring to his friends and neighbors. “We are armed, scouring the perimeter, day and night in turn, so as not to miss the enemy.” Peter said he feels cool, calm and collected. He said panic was not helpful. He told me that if anyone wants to support Ukraine, do it with a positive and encouraging word, not with words that spread fear, panic and despair. Or better yet – give material aid and donations, he said, not words. “We are going to win because we know who we are protecting,” said Peter, referring to his granddaughters and the children of Ukraine.
Here are some of the faces of brave Ukrainians. They need our united support. Their fight is the fight of the free world against the tyranny of totalitarian repression. In just a few days, I worked with my dear friends Donna Friedman, Jonathan Diorio and others to raise over $6,000 for our friends in Ukraine. We will continue our efforts and we ask you to do so too. Below is a list of reputable organizations that accept donations.
Plus, there are creative ways to help, like renting an Airbnb in Ukraine and just telling the Airbnb owner you’re not coming. The owner will be paid. Most Airbnbs are used to house those who have lost their homes, which can help offset expenses. Buying items on Etsy from Ukrainians and noting that you don’t need the item will also go straight into people’s hands.
Most people are unable to work under current conditions, so they have little or no income. However you can help, you will save lives. Euro Foods at 1664 Old Towne Rd, Charleston, is currently accepting items to help the front lines, such as blankets, socks and toiletries (go to their website eurofoodsbakeryandcafe.com for a full list of items needed ).
Today, we stand with the Ukrainian people. We stand with people around the world who have made up their minds – that freedom, human decency, courage and love for your country are the values they will not give up or even trade for personal gain. Today we are all reminded of what is true, what is real, what is worth fighting for. Glory to Ukraine and thank you for your support!
Other ways to help:
To directly support the Ukrainian military, the National Bank of Ukraine has established a special donation account specifically to support troop and equipment purchases.
Paint Against Putin – Charleston’s Deckman Studio is hosting a fundraiser for Ukrainian aid from 6-9 p.m., March 26, with a live painting event and silent art auction.
UNICEF USA – UNICEF supports health, nutrition, HIV prevention, education, water, sanitation and more.
Médecins Sans Frontières – DWB is involved in a range of activities with local volunteers, organisations, healthcare professionals and authorities to facilitate travel to and from healthcare facilities.
Voices of Children – VoC is a charitable foundation based in Ukraine that helps provide mental health support for children.
Red Cross – Whenever possible, the American Red Cross supports the work of the Ukrainian Red Cross.
International Medical Corps – IMC, a global non-profit organization, has been providing primary health care and mental health services in eastern Ukraine for nearly a decade. He is now fundraising to expand these services.
Water Mission – The Water Mission, a non-profit organization in Charleston, sent a team to Europe to help displaced Ukrainian families have better access to safe drinking water.