The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 31st

Op-ed: Ways you can support my family in Ukraine

In the moments when I am writing this, my father’s family with my two little siblings, 5 and 7 years old, is sitting in their basement with shells landing and bombs exploding less than 1,000 feet from their house.

They have already been cut off from food supplies, electricity and heat for eight days.

It was an early Thursday morning, Feb. 24, when some of my family members and friends were woken up by the sounds of explosions in my home city, Dnipro. Those were the sounds of the start of the full-scale invasion that Russia launched into Ukraine.

I texted my mom asking her to call me when she wakes up. She didn’t hear the explosions, and woke up as usual with her alarm, saw my message and called me asking how I was doing, not realizing what was going on. When I told her war had just broken out in Ukraine, she went silent for 10 seconds, and in a calm voice said she had to figure out what to do and would call me back. That day, she packed an emergency bag, coordinated with the neighbors and equipped their shelter.

She has been waking up and going to bed with an air raid siren instead of her alarm since then.

My dad decided to move his family from his apartment in downtown Kyiv to my grandmother’s place in the outskirts. They had to pick up friends and drive in a small sedan car — squeezing eight people in it. 

A road of 25 miles took them 10 hours: Many hours were spent in a traffic jam on the bridge while the Kyiv infrastructure was being bombed. Right now, they are stuck in the area of some of the heaviest battles, heating the house with a stove and saving charge on their phones. The Russian army would not let humanitarian aid into the region. 

Over the last week, I could only receive a short text from my dad a day, and he is risking his life going outside to find a spot with at least some unstable connection. With that, they stay unbelievably strong and keep up their morale. I am proud of my family and my country for this spirit, unity and readiness to protect families, houses and land.

Russia is bombing residences, killing civilians, cutting people from supplies and destroying their houses. While you are reading this, Ukrainian children, women and men are losing their lives. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the 12 days of war, including dozens of children. 

On March 4, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, near the city of Energodar, was set on fire as a result of Russian shelling. It is the first time in the history of mankind an army is bombing a nuclear power plant, creating a risk of a disaster that could be 10 times worse than the one of Chernobyl in 1986. On the morning of March 4, I was instructing my family on actions in case of a threat of nuclear contamination.

Russian leaders repeatedly lied about the situation in Ukraine and their intentions. Even after 12 days of war, Russian citizens are being told their troops bring “freedom” to Ukraine and are being welcomed by Ukrainians. The reality on the ground is that the Ukrainian army is fiercely fighting back, and the occupants entering villages and cities face civilians who block their way, protest, march, shout at them and blame them in destruction and deaths. 

People around the world should understand that this is not a war in some country far away, this is a real threat to humanity. Russia started an all-out war on the European continent, and Putin ordered nuclear arms on alert. Ukraine is defending the future of the whole world in these moments.

There are so many actions U.S. citizens can take to stop this and hold Russia accountable.

Contact your senators, representatives and the White House. Demand strictest financial and political sanctions. Sanctions are very important, but they don’t work as fast as people die. Demand specific actions to:

  • Establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, and provide air defense systems — most civilians die in air strikes and shellings.
  • Demand to secure humanitarian corridors into the sieged regions and cities.
  • Demand to expedite legislation for Ukrainian refugees.
  • Stop buying Russian oil and gas.

Together with that, join our support events to learn from Ukrainians first hand, and donate. 

You can help my family, Ukraine and the world. We defend our land and our democracy, and we are on the right side of history.

Misha Shvets

Doctoral student

Department of Computer Science

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