“All my life, I have been a proud Ukrainian.”
These last few days have been emotional. I have friends who tell me they are not able to make contact with their loved ones in Ukraine. A woman from my church worries for her 18-year-old son-in-law who has been called to fight on the front line. Another friend of mine shakes in fear as she tells me about her son—who is only 13—who fled by himself to Poland, where he is now living among strangers. I see pictures of people huddled in basements and bathrooms with all their belongings, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. All are uncertain as to what the future will bring.
Despite being in bomb shelters, Ukrainians have not lost their humanity. Teachers are teaching, child cancer patients are receiving chemo drips, and babies are being born in makeshift hospitals underground. Former Miss Universe models, heavyweight champions, and professional ballet dancers have become soldiers ready to fight on the front line. Near Kyiv, a friend of mine is residing in a bomb shelter underneath her church with her husband and four children, including an infant. They have made an underground studio apartment into a semblance of their home. One night, her young daughter—just four years old—turned to her and said, “Mama, everything is going to be OK; an angel told me so.”
In 1941 during WWII, my grandparents on my mother’s side escaped Ukraine and immigrated to America in hopes for a better future without dictatorship. In the late ’40s and early ’50s, my grandfather on my father’s side used his Ukrainian radio program on WPIT in Pittsburgh to guide fleeing Ukrainians on where to live so they could continue to uphold their heritage without persecution. I recently had a conversation with my grandfather, age 93, and listened to his concerns about how history is repeating itself. When asked how recent events compare to the past, he states that people are still being persecuted for their freedom.
All my life, I have been a proud Ukrainian—it’s all I’ve ever known how to be. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I went to Ukrainian school every Saturday to learn the country’s culture, history, and heritage, and I sang in the Ukrainian church choir every Sunday. I learned folk dancing from my father, whose passion for Ukrainian dance is widely known throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over the years, he has taught hundreds of Ukrainian-Americans traditional folk dance, and he even performed for President Reagan at the White House…. I attended Ukrainian scouting camps in the summers and, later in my professional life, joined the Ukrainian community of New Jersey. Throughout my life, I’ve learned never to be afraid to show people where you come from and to always be proud of your heritage.
Ukraine is a proud and peaceful nation that has never attacked its neighbors. Ukrainians are so undeserving of this unprovoked war, and I pray that people find refuge in neighboring countries to eventually reunite with their loved ones. In the past few days, thousands of Ukrainian-Americans from all over the country have rallied to show the world their heritage is vibrant as ever, and have gathered to support their native country. Ukraine is strong and will prevail, but the people there need help. Here’s what you can do:
- Kindly correct people to say “Ukraine” instead of “The Ukraine.” The latter was a term used to reference Ukraine back when it was a part of the USSR.
- Razom For Ukraine (translation: “Together for Ukraine”), an NYC-based nonprofit, has gathered a list of resources for donation opportunities. Please share them with your networks and organizations.
- Supplies can be purchased tax-exempt on Amazon: Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine Amazon List.
- Call your elected officials and leave a respectful message saying you support the U.S. standing up to Putin’s unprovoked aggression.
Слава Україні! Героям Слава! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!
Bohdana Komichak is an art director at DEFINITION 6. A 2010 graduate of Ohio University and a current master’s degree student at Georgetown University, Bohdana is a true branding pro, having contributed her design genius to brands across a wide array of industries. She is a lover of cooking, travel, Cleveland sports teams, and all things Ukrainian culture. (Слава Україні!)