Ukrainian civilians face missile attacks, daily hardship

Chloe White, Editor in Chief

As we enter the ninth month of a conflict millions believed would be over in a matter of weeks, Ukraine continues to face the trials of invasion. Reports from Kyiv are inundated with statistics of military gains and losses, but one must equally consider the strains placed upon its citizens. 

Russia has now killed or injured at least 17,181 Ukrainian civilians according to a United Nations human rights report. An independent Ukrainian news source estimates that the casualties may be up to three times as high due to unconfirmed deaths and injuries. 

To the residents of Ukraine, these civilian losses are inexcusable. Matt Smith, an American national living in Kyiv, levied criticism on Russia for their intentional targeting of civilians. “These attacks are way too precise to not be deliberate,” he offered, naming Russia’s strategies as “psychological warfare” against citizens.

Aside from the direct killing of civilians, stories from students at the Study Academy in Kyiv offer insight into the hardship of living in a city frequently facing missile attacks from Russia. The most frequent impact on students’ lives, according to Varvara Vasylchenko, is having to hide in metro stations when they hear the sirens signaling an attack. “We go underground during the missile attacks,” she commented. “It could be 15 minutes or 4-7 hours.”

Since the students often retreat underground during school hours, they risk being separated from their families during attacks. There are often concomitant power outages which alienate those taking shelter. Varvara recalls, “There was a house in my neighborhood that was damaged and I knew my mother and brother were at home. I felt like I couldn’t do anything — you can’t communicate with them.” Her family remained safe, but this experience emphasizes the danger inherent to living in Kyiv.

Ukrainians continue to prove themselves resilient amidst the fear the Russians want to incite. “I panic, but it’s the type of panic that I get used to. I feel fear, but in a controlled way. It’s a fear of what you cannot control,” observed another student, Nikol Fedosyeyeva.

As she spoke of her experience, Fedosyeyeva radiated with passion toward the injustice of the Ukrainian situation. “People outside don’t understand what it’s like to wake up every day and hope that they won’t be attacked by missiles.” She remembers vividly “the utter panic you get when sitting at home and see[ing] a missile flying by my house. The sound it produced is horrifying. I don’t think people can understand it without seeing it or experiencing it.”

Missile strikes are not the only changes which affect the daily lives of Ukrainian citizens. Residents experience frequent and unpredictable power outages which leave them unable to do work, entertain themselves or, in the case of the Study Academy students, attend online school. Unless students have a generator at their house (which most do not), it is impossible to continue learning due to the danger of attending in-person classes. According to the Kyiv Independent, Russian missiles have damaged or destroyed over 390 educational facilities since September 1st and over 2,800 places of learning since February.

Even through this destruction, the citizens of Ukraine still feel a strong connection to their country. One student, Anastasiia Matiashek, shared her experience after fleeing temporarily to the Czech Republic: “When I came back to Kyiv there were air sirens and I was like, ‘I’m home.’” She continued explaining her fidelity to her homeland despite the danger of returning. “Me and my mom missed our home, our country, our family and friends. I was counting the days until we could get train tickets to go home. I wasn’t living my life [in Prague]; it wasn’t me.”

Further evidence of this is a rejuvenation of Ukrainian culture. Citizens are making a concerted effort to speak the Ukrainian language — Duolingo estimates 1.3 million new learners since February — and grasp onto a patriotism that may be at its highest since the beginning of the war with Russia in 2014. Matiashek commented on the newfound value of speaking Ukrainian: “I used to only speak Russian, but now I realize the importance of [our] language. In the streets and shops I try to speak Ukrainian.”

Additionally, Ukrainians contribute to the military effort to drive Russian forces back because, as Vasylchenko stated, my safety depends on the armed forces.” She and other students do what they can by donating their money, volunteering and supporting family members who are fighting.

If you wish to help support Ukraine’s troops and their country’s fight for autonomy, please donate here:

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