By Marta Tsvengrosh, LL.M.
Ukrainian refugees seeking shelter under a destroyed highway
It was 5 am on February 24 when an explosion woke me in my apartment in Kyiv. After checking the news, I realized that my worst nightmare became a reality: a war has come to my country. Two hours later I was in a car, heading west, unsure if me and my family would make it to a safer place. Fortunately, we did make it. However, our nightmare still continues, and it is one we are unlikely to wake up from without the help of our international allies.
Since Russia started a full scale war in Ukraine on February 24, over 140 countries united to support Ukrainians in their fight with this aggressor. However, the violence continues, leaving hundreds of civilians dead and millions, like myself, forced to leave their homes. While so much has been done, and at times it can feel like too big of a challenge, we must continue to come together.
Why is it important to act immediately?
- Death of civilians. So far, at least 38 children have died as a result of the Russian invasion. People are captured in their homes and basements in various cities and towns across our country. There are even numerous reports of civilians shot dead when trying to escape their shelters. Many people are wounded and can be treated, but too often doctors and volunteers have no access to help them.
- Risk of nuclear disaster. There are 5 nuclear plants in Ukraine, 2 of them (including Chernobyl) have been captured by the Russian occupants. If one of the nuclear reactors is damaged through missile attack or otherwise, the harm will be global and irreparable.
- Migration crisis and infrastructure collapse. Over a million people have already left Ukraine to seek shelter abroad. The Russian aggressors continue ruining residential buildings, hospitals, schools, and other necessary infrastructure. The longer the war continues, the more devastation there will be. Ukrainians will have no homes to return to.
Video from the author capturing a recent Air Strike Alert near Kyiv
This suffering needs to stop, and there is only one solution for that: for Russia to stop the war.
No matter your age or grade, everyone can help! Here is how:
1. Ask your representative to support Ukraine
You can contact your representative via email and Twitter. Since midterm elections are approaching, you may stress that it is important that your representative stands for freedom and democracy, both in Ukraine and worldwide. Letters may not feel like much, but politicians do factor them in – especially if you organize a letter writing campaign at your school or with friends. You may ask them to:
- Impose more economic sanctions on Russia, including full embargo on oil and gas;
- Impose direct sanctions on the Russian elite, including seizing assets of Putin’s business allies;
- Provide more military support to Ukraine, including jets and protection from airstrikes;
- Protect nuclear power plants in Ukraine in order to avoid a second Chernobyl and worldwide disaster.
2. Join or start a protest in your city
It is important to participate in anti-war protests. Such protests need to continue until the war stops. The whole world, including Russians, both oligarchs and regular citizens, must see who Vladimir Putin truly is: a ruthless dictator.
3. Make a donation
There is no such thing as a "small" donation. Every little bit counts. The Ukrainian National Bank opened two international accounts for donations: the first one for military support and the second one for humanitarian support. You may also donate to one of the international organizations supporting Ukraine, like UNICEF and Red Cross.
4. Ask famous brands to close their businesses in Russia
For US companies it is important to choose humanity over monetary gain. Otherwise their taxes can be used to finance the Russian military, indirectly leading to more civilian deaths in Ukraine.
Also, brands leaving Russia will have an impact on average Russians. Even if for a wrong or self-interested reason, the Russian people will want this war to stop.
5. Post on social media
Speak about the situation in Ukraine and share information with your friends as to how they can help Ukrainians. Talk to your Russian friends and try to break through the propaganda that they may hear, even in the US. Together, 140 million Russians can make a change in their country too.
With the whole world united, there is no other option for Ukraine but to win. This may be a tragedy right now. But we can turn this into a victory for democracy, humanity, and human rights!
For additional real ways you can help Ukraine as a foreigner please visit https://supportukrainenow.org/
About the Author
After graduating from the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv in Ukraine, Marta Tsvengrosh, LL.M., completed a Humanity in Action Human Rights Fellowship in Germany and then a second Masters in International Dispute Settlement at the Geneva Graduate Institute. As of writing this article, Marta was forced to leave her home in Kyiv by the unprovoked Russian invasion.