The events of the last two weeks – Russia’s bloodthirsty invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing humanitarian crisis – have absolutely gutted me.
Despite being an American, my life has intersected with Slavic culture and people in fascinating and delightful ways, for almost as long as I can remember. My mom (also an American) studied Russian in college, and I grew up using simple Russian phrases around the home. In college, I took courses on Russian language and history and ended up cobbling together a minor in Russian Studies upon graduation.
Around that same time, my dad (also an American!) took a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity in Russia. He went alone while I stayed in the U.S. to finish school, and I had several wonderful, whirlwind visits to St. Petersburg and various Baltic states during his time living overseas.
More recently, I found myself living in a city in the U.S. that is a sister city to a good-sized municipality in western Ukraine – once again providing an opportunity for cultural exchange and learning through visiting delegations.
Simply put – I have learned to love Slavic cultures and have had many enriching experiences over the years. When I first got online in the 1990s, I chose the handle “Comrade,” as a harmless identifier in web forums. It pains me deeply to see Russia squandering all the progress it had made towards democracy and open relations with the West, and I am totally devastated by the loss of life in Ukraine. Слава Україні!
If you are looking for a charity to support, the Sister Cities Association in my town has started a GoFundMe to support the humanitarian and relief efforts as refugees pour into the city of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine. Uzhhorod is a relatively safe area, and far from the war, and they have become a magnet for refugees fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine.