I am now in my fourth week volunteering in Ukraine, volunteering and exploring the country to help those most in need, while sharing blog posts with you. It’s an incredible experience, for many reasons. This country is currently in an interesting time. A decades long fight with Russia has led to an all out invasion of the Eastern front of Ukraine, with prior attempts on the capital and other regions. Why has this happened? One may never know, but the power and influence of war is apparent.
Volunteering in Ukraine has led me to amazing people, from locals to others volunteering from abroad, all coming together to help people in need. Life in Ukraine is interesting, even without the current level of violence. We all come from different places, with different opinions and ways of life, change and abnormal become custom and expected as one travels the world, especially far from home. PersonalIy, I thoroughly enjoy seeing the differences everywhere I go, from culture to economy.
What is like to volunteer in Ukraine
The vibe here in Ukraine is that of independence, struggle and directness. There hasn’t been a great deal of support from government over the years. From a western perspective, it’s and older feeling being here. It feels as if I am living decades prior in respect to my home country, USA. Yes, Ukraine is a bit behind on technological, economic, social and political levels but who’s to say this is bad. And is it really being “behind the times?” Who’s to say the west has it figured out? No country has it figured out. We are all doing our best out here with the resources and knowledge possessed. Of course, we can all do better and same goes for the governments we live under. There is no perfect world. If there were, it would be flooded with people. Broken promises all over the world lead us into survival mode, so we survive.
Years of conflict in Ukraine have led individuals here to lack trust. Lacking trust in authority and the neighbor. There is however, apparent equality. It’s very hard to climb economical ladders in Ukraine, just as is the case everywhere, really. The economic division is not so apparent in the streets of Ukraine, perhaps this is wartime vibes I am experiencing. While social media, traditional media and government distract us, the wealthy continue to count their money. I feel as if I am just another person in Ukraine, your average citizen living life. It feels good. I see those aspiring to attain higher status and it reminds me how satisfying my simpler lifestyle is.
People here are direct, there is not much of the hiding behind insecurities and guilt business. I like it, it’s growth for me. Living and acting out on the surface is not popular here, which is incredibly refreshing. One reason for this is material things. They are not attainable by many. This may seem unfortunate for many but what does this really offer other than a codependence on “stuff.” An addiction that isn’t reported like alcoholism because, well, this is what the economy is built on, consumers buying lots of unnecessary “stuff.” Therefore, you don’t see a lot of social bullying and economical judgement, not like in the west.
There are however, other discomforts. The directness can be a bit unappealing to some, especially to those growing up reserved households. A lack of interest and awareness of others is another concern. Again, each place has it’s good and bad, and nothing is perfect. We must find our place, and our place with others whom support us unconditionally.
Volunteering in Ukraine
Volunteering in Ukraine has been quite the experience. I wasn’t sure what I would see when I arrived. Media in the west make it seems as if one foot in Ukraine means death is imminent. This is far from the case. The western regions of Ukraine are quite safe. Almost as if life is continuing as normal, except with a curfew in place and some other abnormalities such as frequent check-points, air alarms and an increased police and military presence. You also see many people looking to profit from this war from street vendors selling war memorabilia to transit operators manipulating those looking to reach safety. Also, foreigners are almost expected to pay a bit more when payment arrangements aren’t sophisticated, such as renting a flat. I’ve experienced this multiple times. All good though, prices here are still irrelevant compared to those in USA which I am accustomed to.
The shelter community has increased substantially, as you can imagine. For people and pets. I’ve been a regular at multiple shelters here in Ukraine, throughout the country. Many people are in need so it’s nice to go and help, supply food, clean and socialize with residents. My journey around the country has led me to some unimaginable scenes. Hundreds of destroyed buildings, shelled streets and exploding missiles mid-air. These are scenes I will never forget. This is a side of humanity which should not happen, in my opinion, but something no one should be exposed to. Why can’t we all live peacefully? OK, a topic for another day.
Let’s be optimistic yet realistic. In certain places, air alarms are not so concerning but watch out in the Eastern front. Here, they can strike anywhere and anytime. In many cases, missiles are shot down by Ukrainian air defense, but even so, watch out. These missiles must fall somewhere, often times in villages below the point of interception. Needless to say, there is chaos in many areas in Ukraine. On the other hand, life continues as normal in many regions as well. In Odessa region, an area hit hard, and still to this day, a pool party at a resort along the Black Sea carried on as if those indulging on this warm summer day had little to worry about.
I now understand the state of normalcy this war has worn brought to the people. It’s horrific, this shouldn’t be normal. It’s nice to see people enjoying their lives, considering the daily dose of psychological lows with limited interruption but it’s also fascinating to see a pool party in a region frequently being targeted by missile strike. The same Saturday night, in the skies above that seaside pool party I referenced early, two missiles were intercepted in midair by (AMB) antiballistic missile defense systems, which I wrote about previously.
Some sixteen months now after Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, people have clearly adapted to the lifestyle and I’m not one to criticize them for their actions, or inaction at times. Let’s hope things calm down soon but there is still a big threat out there. Ukrainian reports suggest Russia is threatening to blow up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. However, western analysts repudiate this claim as an unlikely threat, for now. Again, let’s hope for the best in Ukraine.
View more highlights from my time volunteering in Ukraine