Her melancholy eyes shimmered as she glanced through the window. His pale, moon-like face juxtaposed her soft, sunshine face.
Tatiana and Roman. The first time I met them was on December 6, 2015. I remember that day clearly. It was when I had just begun researching the Ukrainian crisis in depth. The news of my newly acquired “project” had spread among our closest friends and family. We received a phone call weeks before from our friend. Her weak, quavering voice alarmed us, and we gave our sincerest apologies when she informed us of a sick Ukrainian man who she knew was hospitalized. He was in pain and his wife was struggling. That night, I had a thought. Perhaps the man’s wife would be willing to share about her own experiences in Ukraine. She could represent the Ukrainian people, and inform Americans of the unfortunate situation. My only concern was her sensitivity. After all, her husband was in critical condition. Why would she possibly want to explain everything to me, or to anyone else for that matter? Soon, I decided to call our family friend. Surprisingly, she thought it was a brilliant idea. In a few weeks, I got into the car with my dad and we drove over to Yale-New Haven Hospital. If he was staying in one of the nation’s best hospitals, I knew right away that his condition required intensive care.
We walked into the building and found our way to the ICU. It was a completely different world. The bright, artificial lights gleamed into my eyes, and an aroma of sanitizer and clean blankets lurked in the halls. Finally, we reached our destination. It was nothing out of the ordinary for a hospital room, except to enter, I had to wear a bright yellow gown, as well as lather my hands with soap and water, and after, put on a pair of gloves. After completing the necessary prerequisites, I took a deep breath and entered.
A ghost? An unwatered flower, maybe? No it was a human. A suffering human. Roman was asleep and in pain. Tatiana was there, and although our Slavic languages were similar, we couldn’t quite understand each other. I could speak Russian, but she was superior at Ukrainian. My dad served as an interpreter and helped us understand each other. We spoke in the room, and later went to a lounge and spoke there. She didn’t seem to mind being interviewed, but she was fragile and frail. After I finished up asking questions and turned off the camera, she broke into tears. My heart yearned to help her, so I hugged her tightly. I didn’t know what would happen to her husband, but I knew that her kids were waiting for her back home.
From speaking with Tatiana, I learned that Ukraine was falling apart. They lived in Lutsk, a city in northwestern Ukraine. Roman volunteered to fight separatists and was wounded twice, but the second time created long-term damage. She told me that she was extremely worried about her children who were being taken care of by her parents. She informed me that civilians were dying, but were doing it as an act of patriotism, and for the love of their country (Documentary link with included interview here: https://youtu.be/NkANIRe0Rjk )
Roman fought for his country, and on March 19, 2016 passed away. During his stay at Yale-New Haven Hospital, two other Ukrainian soldiers were hospitalized at Bridgeport Hospital, as well. Although these events took place in the very recent past, many people have forgotten about Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine has been discarded by the media, as if it was no more than a piece of garbage, irrelevant and old compared to newer issues. In fact, Ukraine needs the media to show what’s happening. I don’t know how many people read my posts, but regardless of who you are, I propose to start the #UkraineMatters hashtag. Perhaps hashtag it in the next picture you post on Instagram or a tweet you send out. It doesn’t even have to be through social media. You can speak to anyone about it – maybe bring it up the next time someone talks about a presidential candidate you can’t stand! I challenge you, but if you’re not up to a challenge, a donation is always welcome, and needed, to continue helping Ukrainians who are fighting for their survival from Russian encroachment.