Look no further than the Ukrainian people for hope as Russia’s onslaught continues

UKRAINE – Despite the darkness that offensive conflict brings and the notion that war reveals the worst of humanity, it is clear that such attempts also bring out the best.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine broke out last week, the country’s residents have rallied in Facebook groups to publicize the life-saving and desperate need of those in the besieged capital Kyiv.

The most necessary things right now are medicines and medical supplies for the soldiers on the front lines. But since much of the capital was closed, civilians were also left without medicine to cure their critical and life-saving illnesses.

A passionate young professional named Inna is taking me from the country’s border with the Hungarian village of Tiszabecs to Kyiv, where she and others are trying to help as many of their countrymen as possible.

Our small van was packed with supplies ranging from food, medicine to basic necessities, mainly for the volunteer self-defense forces to repel the Russian offensive day and night.

Map of Russian attacks in Ukraine as of Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

It’s a 500-mile drive, which would normally take about eight hours. But Inna warned that taking the country’s small back roads through its tiny towns would be the best option to avoid potential fire from the Russian invaders, so the driving distance will probably last 20 hours.

Various groups of people have organized round-the-clock work seeking prescriptions from neighboring countries, with varying success.

However, the Ukrainians will not stop trying. Support from outside and inside is overwhelming, despite the difficulties. One group raised a few thousand dollars to buy much-needed armor and helmets for the resistance, but the point was in buying these items from a nearby country and finding someone to bring them in. hot spots.

Scenes from Ukraine
At the start of her journey, Hollie Mckay witnesses a long line of women and children trying to flee to the Hungarian village of Tiszabecs.
Hollie McKay

The logistics are never-ending, with Ukrainians risking their lives driving across the country to deliver whatever they can to those caught in the bloodshed.

In the relative safety of Ukraine’s west, a woman in a group of people at a local pharmacy rummaged through a list of necessary medicines.

“What’s that list for?” asked an elderly male customer.

“Kyiv,” replied.

Scenes from Ukraine
Ukrainian citizens are risking their lives, evading Russian fire by traveling across roads, to deliver food, medicine and supplies from neighboring countries to the front.
Hollie McKay

The old man’s face twisted into a grimace, and he opened his wallet to hand over whatever bills he had without question, emphasizing that he wished he had more to support. help his brothers.

Locals talk about how pharmacies are always open for them and ask volunteers to pick up whatever they need, and that restaurants that were once busy with business now devote all their time and resources force to cook for the men and women who went to war.

Despite the dire situation, the Ukrainian hospitality has not wavered, as the locals still retain the idiosyncrasies left over from their previous lives.

Scenes from Ukraine
Men stand in the freezing cold behind sandbags, blessed with armor.
Hollie McKay

In the Vynohradiv, Zakarpattia area, a man bringing out large bottles of homemade red wine disguised in plastic water bottles as gifts for us, assured me with a cheerful smile that his country was He owns some of the best grapes in the world.

However, the phone calls between the residents of Ukraine are full of tears and pain – and are continuous as if they are chilling.

Stories tell of traumatized children living in bunkers buried in the ground or unable to even flee their homes in eastern parts of the country because of bombed and blown bridges. .

At one point on our journey, we stopped for tea and gathered around the small television in a local apartment. It is broadcasting routine footage of Ukrainians on the battlefield accompanied by overlays of the country’s blue and yellow flags and national anthem.

Ukrainian officials are calling on locals to repair or destroy Russian symbols placed on either side of Ukraine’s roads that signal an impending attack or are used as a threat tactic.
Hollie McKay

“These things are very important to us,” explains a tearful Luda woman who is traveling with us to Kyiv. “These things keep us going.”

At the start of our ride, there was a long line of women and children dragging small suitcases across the icy pavement toward the seemingly paradise of Tiszabecs.

But on the other hand, the western region of Ukraine still carries a veil of normalcy: peddlers peddling rusted bicycles through towns in the middle of the morning, bustling grocery stores and the sight of old houses glass, covered with snow in the forest is far from the fear of blockage. Kyiv.

Even so, the shroud of normality was distorted somewhat by strange signs that randomly appeared along our journey to Kyiv: amber circles with crosses through them and the bright red Xs closer to the edge of the road.

According to the State Service for Motor Vehicles of Ukraine, this is part of the signaling system used by Russian forces, especially at night, to map out the trajectory of their war.

Signs show intruders have been to the areas in recent days or weeks to paint them, and Ukrainian authorities are urging residents to “repair and destroy similar signs on roads and other structures.” other infrastructure objects”.

Scenes from Ukraine
Ukrainians are trying to keep hope amid the onslaught of Russia.
Hollie McKay

“We’re not sure if these are real targets or just used as a tactic of intimidation to make the Ukrainian people feel fear and fear,” Luda said.

As we glided along the barren roads to the central city of Ivan-Frankivsk, the feeling of anxiety deepened. People carry their whole lives into their cars when they are desperate to leave their homeland.

“We’re fine now, but I don’t want to wait for the war to come,” said a tearful elderly woman along our route. “So we have to leave our people and go.”

Weaving through villages and as far away from the airport as possible, tending to be an enemy target, we were stopped at more than a dozen unofficial checkpoints run by local residents who wanted make sure they know the identities of those entering their terrain.

Throughout their journey, Hollie McKay and Inna were stopped at a number of unofficial checkpoints run by locals who wanted to make sure they knew who was entering their area.
Hollie McKay

The closer we get to Kyiv, the more ominous the situation becomes as darkness descends.”

We were instructed to drive in low light despite the dark, snow-speckled sky. As we approached a virtually invisible military-run checkpoint, only a flash of light in the distance signaled us to turn off all our headlights and go slowly only when our interior lights were on. .

Even a handful of gas stations remain open, and often have long lines, operating in near complete darkness. The street lights were gone, and the cities and towns were all ebony.

It was a strange new world for Ukrainians who used to traverse their vast country freely and easily. The black skies are not worrisome, and there is safety in the misty daylight, though it doesn’t make anyone any safer from bombing.

Scenes from Ukraine
A sense of fog and gloom pervades Ukraine.
Hollie Mckay

In the past, when I told the military that I was a journalist from the US, my presence attracted suspicion. But Ukrainians now respond with gratitude.

It is clear that they want the world to know what is happening to them, how their Russian neighbor has divided their lives.

It is jarring to see so many men standing for hours in the night under the freezing cold behind sandbags, unable even to light a fire to keep warm, sometimes with only a thin winter coat and armor if they lucky.

The men told us that they did not need food, but that they would need tourniquets and other medical facilities if the artillery attacked.

When the ghost capital appeared, the roads were almost completely deserted, blurred by the mists of dawn and gloom. Soldiers warned that a 40-mile convoy of Russian tanks and troops was moving toward the city center just a few miles away.

Kyiv is a virtual ghost town, with streets and bridges deserted as a Russian convoy approaches less than 40 miles away.
Hollie McKay

Emotions run high, but if they are scared, many Ukrainians will do their best not to show it, making sure victory is within reach and expressing deep pride for their fighters. and President Volodymyr Zelensky, who refused to leave his threatened country despite direct instructions. threats against his life.

As fear drew closer, Ukrainians braced themselves, holding their heads high.

“Good luck, girls,” an elderly soldier said softly at a checkpoint.

“Long live Ukraine.” Look no further than the Ukrainian people for hope as Russia’s onslaught continues


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