Through the Eyes of Survivors

Ukraine used to be a calm, happy, and subtle place. Now it is a place known as a place of war. Many lives and homes, as well as the country itself of Ukraine are slowly being destroyed by Russia. The outside world knows the “general idea” of what is happening with Ukraine and Russia, but what about the real truth? What about the lives of real people who have had the experience of living through it all? What is underneath the surface of the story? Many people all over the world think that they know it all and know exactly what is happening, but not many have heard what it’s been like for the ones affected the most by this war. 


The relationship between Russia and Ukraine dates back some 200 years. However, since 1992, Ukraine has established itself as part of NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Over the years Russia has had Ukraine, their western boarding country,  wrapped around its finger. Ukraine recently took a change in course of action and Russia was not in favor of it. As Russia is not a part of NATO, the joining of this group by Ukraine has caused many conflicts that are still in the making to this day. 


Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia has attacked Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, formally on the front line, has taken the large responsibility as President of Ukraine to protect his citizens and country at all costs. Since February of 2022, Russia has continued to invade and attack Ukraine. Russia even managed to annex Crimea, a small peninsula in the south eastern side of Ukraine, leading into the Black Sea. Overall, for many countries, Ukraine is a strong, powerful, and significant ally, and for this, an assortment of various countries have offered any and all types of service and help to Ukraine, including the United States. As of today, (date of publication), the war is still ongoing, and the fight continues


The BF Bolt was fortunate enough to get the story of a few students who left the war torn country and came to Ridgewood. Ruslan Chernets and Diana Chernets are new to BF Middle school having come over from Ukraine a few months ago. Simonne Yurkovetskiy, a student here at BF, was able to translate the students’ story of what happened to them while being in the middle of the war in Ukraine. Ruslan and Diana were able to share with us how they are adapting to their new life here in the U.S. 


What was your overall experience that you had while you were in Ukraine, when everything happened?


It was very scary and everything happened really quick, and I woke up for school one morning and my  mom said there’s a war starting so we had to leave. Waking up for school and being told you have to evacuate the country that you know and love because it is in the midst of a war wouldn’t be easy to live through. 

How long have you been away from Ukraine and how did you get to the U.S?

It was very scary at first and we thought we would come back quickly but we ended up finding out we would not be back for awhile. 

What did you do in Ukraine while everything was happening? 

The first day we didn’t do anything and we had to sleep in the garage because if it bombed the room, the glass would have broken and then the second day my parents told me we had to pack up very quickly and leave. 

What was Ukraine like before the whole war started?

It was very nice and happy and no one would ever expect there to be a war.

How is it different living in Ridgewood than Ukraine?

I like it here but since I don’t know how to speak English it’s a little hard.

Do you still have any family or friends there? If so, are you still in contact with them?


Yes, my mom’s parents, and my dad’s dad. Which are my grandparents.

 No one ever wants to leave their family behind, especially when there is a war like this happening. They don’t know what will happen to them, will they meet again? Will it be the last time they see their family when they leave?  These students have lost almost everything, and they are still just kids like us. 

Having to learn how to live  in a new environment is difficult as is, not to mention meeting new people, learning a whole new language, and waking up every morning knowing that one month, even two months ago you were in what used to be your home. 


Although the country itself has dealt with many problems this past year, it’s safe to say that Ukraine’s people have suffered the most. From home invasions to trying to find a miraculous escape out of the country, the citizens of Ukraine have tolerated unimaginable events. For people in the United States to comprehend what they have been through, they must examine the root causes of the issues. We have to learn how to be empathetic, and that should be something we take with us when further looking at the overall situation in Ukraine. 


What you see in the newspaper is only the tip of the iceberg. This war has been going on five months too long, and by itself it truly diminishes the hopes of the citizens of Ukraine, let alone the fact that the world has just started to overcome the worldwide pandemic, covid, at its worst. Taking into account everything that the  Ukrainians have had to endure since the start of the new year, quite simply, is unbelievable.

Imagine, one day you are living a normal life.  Going to school, coming back home, having dinner with your family, going to sleep and then awakening to sound of gunfire and bombing, Then you  find out you have to evacuate your country, leaving everything you have ever known behind. The toll taken on the country as a whole is terrible.


Wars can’t fix problems. We can look at the future brightly and optimistically and hope that the prayers we send are answered. The donations we send are put to use. Everyone needs to start to consider what is going on in Ukraine and realize that this is not normal for innocent people to be constantly suffering. Realize that Ukraine is the strongest of them all, for never giving up their hope and hearts for the country.