I Can’t End the War in Ukraine. But I Can Make My Corner of the World Better

I Can’t End the War in Ukraine. But I Can Make My Corner of the World Better

It has been more than a year since Russia unleashed an unjust, cruel war on a brotherly nation. For many people life has split into before and after. I could hide behind my mother’s Ukrainian last name or behind the fact that I’m an American citizen and have lived in the United States for more than half of my life.

However, but to my adoptive country, and to the outside world, I am Russian.

I’m horrified and sad, but the feeling that burns hottest and eats me from the inside is anger. By now, as the war news moved down from the front pages, I have become, like the rest of us, used to this new reality. Nonetheless, the anger still burns strong.

In our ever more polarized world of black and white, I’ve been seeing red. Writing about my personal crisis feels indulgent and frivolous, as my experience doesn’t even begin to compare to those directly affected by the war. I’m safe, my family is safe and I’m not even entirely sure about the moral of my story here.

I know that the war is not my fault. I left Russia long before its current “president” became the “president”. However, I can’t help but feel responsible for my native country’s actions. What humbled me though and brought me to tears is the kindness and concern that has been extended to me by my Ukrainian and my international friends. People whose lives have been ruined because of Russia have shown me grace and understanding. 

No one expected Ukraine to fight so bravely and fiercely. It was widely believed that the war would be over in a few weeks. However, in the fight between the good and evil, I am hopeful that the good is winning.

While the battle continues, other people — not me — need help.  And yet, there was enough kindness to share.  Having been the recipient of this kindness, sympathy and understanding, I know that I have to pay it forward: I can stop feeling helpless and make the world around me just a little better. No matter how small my contributions may be in comparison to the scale of the unfolding horror, it may make a difference to some. If I’m being honest, I must admit that the feeling of utter helplessness of not being able to change anything — the feeling that was feeding my rage — has not gone away.  However, I am learning to pause and ask myself, “Will your next action make your little world better?” If the answer is “yes”, I act.

This will not end the war. But have to start somewhere. And it’s always better to start with yourself.

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