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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Rethinking (or realizing) YOUR way of help

The past two semesters have been nothing short of exhausting. The fear of losing everything I have ever known and loved has overtaken my mind, as I have been lucid dreaming every single day since the war. 

I dream of peace, but apart from that, I dream that other people finally understand where I and the other Ukrainians studying in the U.S. are coming from.

It is a daunting task to live through times of war and few people, thankfully, will ever have to experience it first-hand. I exist in a community where few people will ever understand what I am currently going through. While others may think that’s a problem, I disagree. One does not have to relate to a problem personally to be able to empathize and help. What I do find to be a problem, however, is that most people do not realize that they have the privilege to help others. Throughout the eight months of the war, I have met countless individuals that pretend no conflicts exist in their world, opting instead to live in isolated happiness. That goes for every conflict or disaster that has happened in recent times, from Palestine to Ethiopia, to Venezuela, and now to Ukraine.

The power to help is a strong and rewarding one. I have been volunteering on smaller scales for about five years, mostly focusing on beginning with speech translations for immigrants, spreading mental health awareness, and sexual education. Right now I help other Ukrainian students navigate study abroad planning. I can acknowledge that I am quite privileged but I can also use that privilege to help others. It is something that makes me feel alive and fulfilled. The war in Ukraine has only empowered my drive to help spread awareness. I truly do not care how much it takes or how many interviews, trips, or events I will have to do. All I know is that I want to help my country in every way possible. 

This is why I am writing this piece. In no way do I want to guilt trip anyone reading this into mindlessly donating money. All I ask is to think about your place in this world and what you are contributing to your community — which could include financial help. I myself am yet again bringing awareness to an issue that seems to remain unnoticed despite its heavy discussion. It is true, Ukraine has received immense amounts of media coverage. But now that news fatigue is setting in, I can clearly observe that little has changed. The war is still going on, if not getting worse, for the citizen population now that the cold weather is near. Other global disasters do not even get mentioned, because they are ruled out as unimportant or “too far away.” This idea is very alien to me and only brings discomfort in the realization that struggling peoples do not matter for anyone outside. 

It goes without saying that it is hard waking up every day and reading the news about your hometown getting shelled while you see tranquility and routine in others’ lives. I saw many families pass by my window during Parent's Weekend, but I really wanted to see only one family: my own. You can ask any international student on campus and they will give you the same answer. We have risked so much by moving completely alone to a new country, only to realize that our countries do not matter to the people around us. Here, other countries are truly only “the others.”

I want to end by quoting my Mom: “I do not want to talk about the war, because I do not want you to suffer as we do. Otherwise, who will be the one to rebuild Ukraine?” And now I want to redirect this statement to you. I would never wish the struggles we are going through upon anyone else. I really do hope you never understand what it feels like to have the fear of losing your home at any second, every waking moment. But I do hope that you understand that you have the power to help anyone. You do not need to relate to them; you do not need to know them. Help does not have boundaries or limitations. And after we eventually rebuild Ukraine, you and I will make at least one mom happy.