The war in Ukraine as seen through the eyes of a Russian/Ukrainian student

Anita Ratna Gautam, Staff Writer

The Russian and Ukrainian conflict has been the biggest headline on American News for months, but as a Russian/Ukrainian student, this story is more than news to my family. 

As Russia invaded the eastern border of Ukraine on February 24th, the lives of Russian-Ukrainian people changed forever. Many

Speakers from the protest in San Francisco giving a speech to a news outlet. (Anita Ratna Gautam)

Ukrainians are Russian or have friends and family who live in Russia, so this war has divided Ukrainian familys just like the Civil War divided American families in the 1860’s.

“This has brought us together as a country. I feel how everyone is here for me and the community has gotten stronger. I’m sad to see another part of my family struggling, and I would never wish that on anyone,”said one anonymous Ukrainian citizen.

The complicated history 

Russia and Ukraine share a history of problems. The first problem is financial.  As the USSR fell in 1991, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries were left with $550 billion dollars of debt. In 2013, Vladimir Putin angrily told the world that this debt was paid in full by Russia alone, even though the international resources of the USSR (such as gold and diamond mines), were shared by Ukraine and Russia. 

The second problem between these two countries surrounds land. On February 20, 2014, Russia invaded Dombas and Crimea. Putin

claimed he had to invade in order to save the people of Dombas and Crimea from terrorists. Dombas and Crimea always had many Russian speaking citizens because of shared borders with Russia. 

After eight years of conflict, Crimea became Russian on March 18, 2014 and Dombas became two new independent nations: Luhansk Republic of People and Donetsk Republic of People. Putin gave out thousands of Russian citizenships to the Crimeans, but many of these citizens did not approve of the annexation of the area. 

Putin then spent almost 2 billion dollars building the 11 mile long Crimea Bridge connecting the island to Russia. Putin continued to threaten Ukraine for the next 2 decades. Ukraine is not a NATO nation and as it began deciding whether or not they should join NATO, Putin threatened that this would constitute an act of war. 

Invasion of 2022

At 6a.m. on February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Putin called it a training opportunity for his army, but within hours, war was declared. The entire world watched as Russian troops attacked Ukrainians and destroyed the beautiful cities of Ukraine. Ukrainian Americans watched as their friends, family, and homeland were destroyed by Russian troops knowing that the divide between their Russian and Ukrainian family widened.

“As my daughter ran into my office and told me that WAR started in my home country. I was in fear and was disappointed in our generation because I so clearly remember the promises we all took to never repeat wars since World War II is still in our minds,” said a Ukrainian and Russian mother we spoke to.

The USA and other NATO countries have tried to help Ukraine without trying to directly involve themselves into the conflict. Many

Protesters upset about the war in Ukraine took over the Embarcadero Plaza, San Francisco. (Anita Ratna Gautam)

countries are scared to intervene because of the threats from Putin to use nuclear bombs. 

For weeks Russia has bombed Ukriane cities causing thousands of deaths and billions in damages. Many Ukrainians have left their houses and fled the country. The Polish border became a top destination for these refugees. Men of the army ages (18-59) are not allowed to leave Ukraine as the country needs them in the army. 

Russia has also announced emergency drafting into their army as well. There is no end in sight to the current war and Ukrainian and Russian families see no end to their conflicts.

Life in Russia

Vladimir Putin has been the president for 17 years, and citizens of Russia don’t know any other way to have their country ruled the. Putin became the 2nd president of Russia in 2000 and the only other person we have seen in the office was Dmitry Medvedev, who is considered Putin’s right hand and they have run the government together for over 24 years.

As more and more sanctions become active, citizens of Russia are struggling. As people forget how little freedom the Russian Constitution

gives, citizens of Russia are not aware of what’s going on in Ukraine. Putin and the government run waves of propaganda over the news and media so he doesn’t lose support. Russian people don’t necessarily support the war, but many don’t understand what is really going on. 

“It feels like I’m the only one alive, just because I know what’s going on. I can feel how hard it is to see the truth, but we need it. It’s just me who is scared, and doesn’t have hope. I can’t even talk to my family about it”- anonymous art teacher in Moscow, Russia. 

Countries from around the world are sanctioning the Russian government, oligarchs and citizens. As stores close, factories close, and apps don’t work without vpn, many say that the factors of sanctions make it doubly hard to get real information. Big cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg are taking a big hit as many stores close and the center of all information and cooperation can’t access their assets and programs. 

The economy is collapsing as sanctions started working on banks like VTB and Sber. 

Life in Ukraine

As more bombs fall on cities of Ukraine, people have no choice but to run and hide. As Russia started the war at 6 a.m. in the morning, people fled their homes towards metros and bomb shelters to hide, or to the Polish border. On February 24th Poland’s president decided to open shelters for Ukrainians around their shared area. 

Russia isn’t the only country that is bombing Ukraine. The Belarus President is very close to Putin, meaning he fully supports what’s going on in Ukraine. President Zelensky has been in the first lines of his country’s front, and has opened an emergency war statement, which prevents men from ages 18-65 from fleeing the country and avoiding support of their military.  

As we post this story, life for many people in Ukraine are still in fear from this War. 

Protestors also protested the war in Ukraine in front of the Ferry Building in San Francisco on February 27, 2022. (Anita Ratna Gautam)





**Many of our Ukrainian & Russian sources asked to stay anonymous out of fear of having their names put online speaking out against the Russian government.