Visitors From the East

The historic country of Ukraine sits 5,719 miles away. This prominent European country is now at war with one of the world’s superpowers, Russia. In the week before the first hostilities occurred, students here met five Ukrainians on a mission. On February 16, 2022, five delegates representing the country of Ukraine from an organization called Global Ties visited our school with the hope of providing a clearer picture of the current events happening in their home country to the student body.
The country of Ukraine has had its independence from Russia for only around thirty years. Before then, the country was considered a part of the then Soviet Union. Doing away with dictatorship, the newly independent country sought to form a more equal democracy for its government. Today, that democracy is threatened by corruption, incursion, and invasion.
The five guests seemed relaxed and happy to visit with students, but their passionate love for their country quickly emerged. “We are under incursion and invasion from the Russian Federation,” said Ms. Olha Melnyk, an assistant head for an Anti-Corruption Committee in Ukraine. “Our military is active and considering various scenarios for the development of these events.” With that threat looming over a divided country, the citizens of Ukraine continue to split into two different sides. One side is considered to be separatists, wanting to separate from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. On the other side, there are people wanting to defend their home country and maintain their independence. On this particular side, there is a call to arms.
“There is a volunteer movement right now that is organized to support our army,” said Ms. Melnyk. Since Ukraine’s funding for its army is significantly less than a country like the United States, other sources are looked into for the funding. Ms. Melnyk said, “The citizens have to co-finance our armed forces. Also, we receive great help from our international partners.”
A large factor driving this opposition to the Russian invasion is the fear of returning to life before Ukrainian independence. “In the Soviet Union,” said Mr. Radym Huban, “People could not practice their own religion. Priests were used as informants to report people who worshipped.”
Besides religious persecution, under the Soviet Union, children were indoctrinated from a young age to join the Communist Party. Ms. Melnyk said, “When you were small, you joined this political club…and then you were enlisted into the Communist Party.” Refusal to join the Communist Party had consequences. A person could be blacklisted from jobs that involved important decision-making and would restrict people to other jobs in other areas that wouldn’t affect day-to-day life.
Since gaining its independence from Russia, Ukraine has made great strides to become an equal democracy. Ms. Ulyana Pak, a city councilor, said, “It didn’t happen in one day. It took many years to transform our lives into a democratic [one]. We came here to learn anti-corruption. We are going to change, experience, and apply the information that we get here. We are on our way to an uncorrupted democracy.”
Even though Ukraine has gained its independence, the fight to maintain it still goes on. However, the panel of Ukrainian delegates showed that the people of Ukraine will not go down without a fight. Ms. Melnyk said, “We will not give up our native land…we will be fighting for our families and our homes.”

Editor’s note: On February 26, we emailed Ulyana Pak, one of the people who visited Catholic High. She responded the next day: 

Thank you for your prayers. For the moment in western part of Ukraine is safer. But North, East and South is attacked.
 Second day they attack Kyiv with ballistic rockets and planes. Few Blocks of flat were bombed.
We hide to basement when it is air alarm three-four times a day.
We pray for Ukrainian Army and peace in our country.
Ulyana Pak


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