With images of shelled apartment blocks, people hiding in bomb shelters, and dead civilians on the streets, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought the unfortunate news of widespread devastation from halfway around the world.
Many Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, have faced a significant onslaught from Russia’s military, causing large scale destruction and a devastating humanitarian crisis.
The war, which began on Feb. 24, has severely impacted many Ukrainians across the United States, including some in Sammamish and the surrounding cities who still have family in their homeland.
Tetyana Sych, 48, is a Ukrainian living in Issaquah with her husband and kids. She was born and raised in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which is currently under Russian siege. Sych immigrated to the U.S. 23 years ago, first settling in Dallas, Texas, before relocating to Issaquah.
“All my relatives, friends, and parents are in Kharkiv, Ukraine,” said Sych.
Kharkiv, which is near the border of Ukraine and Russia, is one of the prime targets for Russian troops. Sych said the residents are completely uncertain about how to stay alive.
“My family has lived under constant bombing for 4 days,” said Sych during an interview on March 3. “The bombing has completely wiped out my city, including many prominent landmarks and my childhood memories.”
Sych’s family is now staying in apartment basements and bunkers with no access to electricity, while surviving on limited food.
“I start my morning by texting every single person in my family, to know if they are alive. Only after that I can breathe and start my day,” said Sych.
Iryna Lavrinenko, 40, is an Ukrainian who currently lives in Sammamish. She grew up in Odessa, Ukraine, and immigrated to the U.S. in 2012. Many of her family members are spread across the cities of Odessa and Kherson.
Lavrinenko said that both cities are adjacent to the Black Sea. Russian troops came through the waterways and surrounded the cities, leaving the people with “no chance to evacuate.”
The intense bombing by Russian forces has forced her family to “sleep in apartment basements for several days,” said Laverinenko.
To block the spread of information on the ground, Lavrinenko said “the troops are cutting down internet connections,” which is making it hard for her to contact her family. She tries to call them through WhatsApp.
Both women expressed a high degree of anger, fear and anxiety at the war that Russian president Vladimir Putin unleashed on Ukraine.
These tragic situations caused by Putin’s actions are “evil, unspeakable, horrible, and against the law,” said Sych. “I cannot work, I feel angry, I feel useless as I cannot do anything.”
Lavrinenko said she is exhausted, depressed, and cannot sleep even with the help of medication.
With news of the war escalating every single day, “nobody is safe in Ukraine,” said Lavrinenko. “But every single person in Ukraine will fight until the last drop of blood to protect their country.”