My Experiences Living in Ukraine During Invasion

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(Courtesy of Sasha Levin)
Sasha Levin, from Ukraine, writes about living in a war zone.

    I am Alexander Levin, but I go by Sasha. I live in Chernihiv, a city in the north of Ukraine. I’m 16-years-old, finishing high school this year, and I plan to study journalism at a university in Belgium. I have doting parents and I also have a brother.
    My final goal is to become a journalist in demand and to cover different geopolitical world events. I am passionate about gaining experience and walking up the career ladder.
    I’m a student in the non-profit organization called ENGin with Miramonte student Nicole Guo and I’m writing about my experiences in this Russian invasion against my country, Ukraine.
    August 1, 1914. September 1, 1939. February 24, 2022. For more than 40 million Ukrainians, these dates now have the same meaning. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that everything happened suddenly on those invasion dates. In fact, the whole country was in anticipation on each occasion, and the stress was becoming more and more immense every day.
    About a week before the current war started, my school received several fake messages of mining from Russia; the same thing happened with other educational institutions in the city.
    On February 23, I was walking with my friend in a park, and we were discussing the probability of a full-scale invasion. I presumed that the possibility of that was about 30%, and we both agreed that it was quite a high risk.
    The next day, several explosions woke me up.
    We realized that we faced a real war with tanks, fighter jets and missiles.
    First things first: Despite huge lines, we rushed to the nearest supermarket to buy provisions to be prepared for a humanitarian catastrophe. In the first 24 hours, we went to our friend’s place with the whole family, because they had a private house with a cellar, whereas we lived on the eighth floor in our building.
    The next few days were similar. We constantly ran downstairs when the explosions were becoming too loud and left the basement when it got calmer. Then, we decided to return home, but on that exact day we saw buildings bombed right in front of our window.
    We were forced to look for a new shelter. A huge concrete building in the city center and a massive bomb shelter beneath it had been designed to protect people from a nuclear warhead, so Russian artillery and air bombs were little threat to it.
    Safety certainly was the main factor, but the conditions were unbearable: The big damp room sheltered hundreds of people. It had many hard metallic beds. The heartbreaking cry of a young woman who just found out that someone whom she loved was no longer alive further poisoned the atmosphere and made the sterile surroundings even more depressing.
    That day convinced us to flee. When the curfew was over, we left the building in the cold winter morning, seeing the dark, gray sky above us and feeling the smell of gunpowder in the air.
    We packed our belongings and fled the city that day.
    The only thing we could see in our future was uncertainty. We didn’t know where we were going or for how long we were leaving our home. We weren’t sure if we would ever be able to return.
    It took us three days to get to Lviv [in Western Ukraine], and during that time we had to stand in a two-hour patrol line and sleep in a church, but eventually we got to our destination.
    Now, I am writing this article from a safe place in Europe. In these difficult times, the best thing you can do is to spread the word about all the atrocities being committed by the Russian army in Ukraine. Time will pass, we will win and the civilized world will say a sacred phrase – never again. Pray for Ukraine. Stand with Ukraine.

Sasha Levin can be reached at sashalevinchernigov@gmail.com.

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