A determined and hopeful 21-year-old beat all odds to graduate university during the Ukraine war. She went onto become a humanitarian, staying behind to cover the stories of vulnerable children affected by war.
I was sleeping, exhausted from working a night shift, when I suddenly woke to extremely loud noises. It was almost 4 o’clock in the morning in Kyiv on February 24, 2022. More explosions, then it dawned on me… war had begun.
One year later, I still remember that night vividly. I immediately called my parents to urge them to leave their hometown in eastern Ukraine’s Dnipro region. Instead, I heard my father cry for the first time in my life, as he was the one begging me to flee.
Frankly, I have never seen my beautiful country in such chaos. People were rushing to escape, panicking to find food and withdraw cash. I spent about ten days in a bunker with other civilians. It was constantly hard.
For the first couple of months, we lived in fear of the air alarms. One night we thought it was finally safe to sleep without my shoes on, thinking tonight I didn’t need to be ready to run to the underground shelter. That night I slept so peacefully for the first time in weeks.
However, during that freezing winter’s night a missile exploded next to my apartment building. Terrified, I ran to the bunker. I was so scared that I ran barefoot through snow.
Nevertheless, I made the hardest decision of my life. I decided to stay in Kyiv and help others. I knew for sure that I will never leave Ukraine as this is my country, this is my home. My parents, friends, all my life is here. This decision has made me even stronger. I have never regretted it.
For four months I was working three jobs because I needed money. Even though it was a tough time, I still managed to pass my final exams and finish my university degree.
In April I turned 21 years old. Birthdays have always excited me but this time I didn’t know if I could even celebrate. My best friend knew I needed cheering up and organized a small party for me with a cake and gifts.
Life had completely changed, and I will never be the same person I was, never.
Sometimes you think about the fact that in the morning you could be hit by a missile. But by the afternoon, you go on living your life, continuing your plans for the day. Creating happy memories amid turmoil gives me hope.
When I interview Ukrainians who have suffered from this war, especially women and children, it makes me sad. I still can’t understand why. Why do they need to suffer? At the same time, their resilience makes me so proud!
I treasure these moments and I’ll never take them for granted again.
I couldn’t imagine how my life was about to change when I accepted a job with World Vision. At World Vision I am using my passion as a journalism graduate and storyteller to help Ukrainians share their voices with a global audience.
One day when the conflict ends, I will be very proud of World Vision’s incredible achievements in the Ukraine Response. People who experienced the horrors of war receive different kinds of support from us, including food, education, and even mental health support.
Regardless of the difficulties I’ve faced over the past year, I am very grateful for fate leading me to World Vision.
When I interview Ukrainians who have suffered from this war, especially women and children, it makes me sad. I still can’t understand why. Why do they need to suffer? At the same time, their resilience makes me so proud! World Vision’s support helps them, and it motivates me to work harder each day.
First and foremost, I am also a survivor of this conflict like millions of Ukrainians. I know how important support is – not just material support, but emotional support from loved ones and even strangers.
Knowing you are not alone in this chaos, with the support of donors across the world, helps you find the strength to get through the most difficult times.
I believe that resilience has always been in my blood, in my DNA. I keep repeating my favorite phrase to everyone – “I am Ukrainian. I can handle everything!”
In addition to that, I always believe in a miracle. I see the same belief on the faces and through the testimonies of the mothers and children who World Vision helps every day.
Blog by Oleksandra Shapkina, Communications Officer I Photos by Brianna Piazza, Roving Communications Specialist (On Deployment)