- The war in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion on February 24, has been going on for six months.
- Insider spoke to four Ukrainians about their experiences and how the conflict changed their lives.
- “The only thing I have is hope for the end of the war,” said one man.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, igniting the largest armed conflict Europe has seen since World War II. Wednesday marked six months since the start of the war.
Millions of Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia launched an unprovoked war, but Ukraine’s men of fighting age, who are between the ages of 18 and 60, are prohibited from leaving if necessary to defend the country.
The Ukrainian people have suffered in this war on countless levels. Gone is the life they once knew. The time they spend with their families will not be returned to them. And the loved ones they lost cannot be replaced.
Indeed, this war has affected different people in different ways. Yet even in times of sorrow and uncertainty, Ukrainians still fight to remain hopeful and stand united behind Ukraine’s armed forces. That said, hope can be hard to come by in times of war.
The Insider recently spoke to four Ukrainian men about how their lives have changed and how they survived six months of war. These are their stories, thoughts and experiences.
‘There is no choice but to win’
Valentin Desiatnyk, a 38-year-old resident of Kiev, said the hardest part of the war was without a doubt “the funerals of my friends,” adding, “It’s very unfair to lose those distinguished young men, referring to the Russian people.
But despite this painful loss, Dsiatnik has done his best to keep busy and push through the past six months.
Desiatnik said that two days after the war began, he began volunteering at the Serhi Pritula Charity Foundation, which supports the military and people affected by the invasion. He said he wanted to help the Ukrainian army “fight against Russian aggression”.
“For the first two months, it was almost 24/7 service,” Desiatnik said. “Then the front line moved through the Kyiv region to the east and south of Ukraine, so we could take a breather and try to find a war-life balance.”
Apart from “air-raid warnings, curfews and shocking news from the front lines”, “life is the same as before a full-scale invasion,” he said.
Desiatnyk said “nobody knows” when the war will end, but he still feels “calm and confident”. He said “we have no choice but to win” and called the Ukrainian army “gods of war”.
“I am sure that Ukraine will win, because our people and government are united like never before!” he said “There are many stories of inspiration and daily motivation to participate in the national resistance.”
‘I feel mostly depressed’
Oleksiy Rozanov, 28, from Dnipro, was less optimistic, saying he felt “tired, exhausted and hopeless”.
“Maybe at first I hoped it would end soon, but right now I mostly feel depressed and feel like life is passing away,” Rozanov said, adding that the life he knew before the war “just disappeared.”
Rozanov said one of the most difficult aspects of the war was that “nothing will be the same now.”
The war “will end sooner or later, but I don’t think it will end like next week or month. Maybe next year but I don’t know,” he said.
It was difficult for him to accept that the war would not end until summer, his favorite season after autumn. “I looked forward to this summer a lot and for all the plans I had,” Rozanov said.
“I used to travel a lot, do a lot of self-development and explore the world,” he said.
But with the war stuck in Ukraine, he’s taking time for introspection instead. “Right now I like to reinvent myself in all aspects of who I am, what I am, what I like and where I want to be,” Rozanov said. “I can say that my biggest change was the reboot of my life.”
‘It feels like we’re living in a dystopia’
Dmitri Sherbina, 32, who lives in Lviv, said the most noticeable change in his life after the invasion was how he was robbed of his ability to plan. At most, he can only focus on what will happen next week.
“You can’t predict what you’ll do and where you’ll be in a month,” Sherbina said. His attitude has changed. “I think I’m starting to value life more,” he said, and instead of making long-term plans like he used to, Sherbina said he’s “focused on living in the here and now, because there’s no tomorrow.”
Sherbina said that being Ukrainian these days is like buying a “lottery ticket” because of Russian missile attacks that are randomly raining down across the country. He said, “A safe day for you is an accident in another city. “We will never be the same as we were before the war.”
“It’s hard to accept reality and it feels like we’re living in a dystopia,” he said, adding that he began therapy in March, which has helped his emotional stability.
People who have seen war with their own eyes are “already broken,” Sherbina said, adding that it will affect children and future generations.
For Sherbina, the most challenging part of the war is hearing so many stories of personal loss, including news of massacres like the Buch. “I’ve talked to the front line people. It’s tough,” he said.
Sherbina said that all Ukrainians want to move forward “to victory and peaceful skies.”
‘The only thing I have is hope for the end of the war’
“Everything has changed,” said Stanislav Kalatsky, 30, from Dnipro.
“Daily life may not have changed much, but the war created a new reality,” of “fear and uncertainty,” he explained.
“Whenever war knocks on your door, your life changes completely,” he said.
Half a year of war is “really emotionally exhausting,” Kalatsky said, adding that although he’s trying, he’s eating and sleeping less, “because I need it to survive.”
“Right now my heart is searching for safety for me and my family,” Kalatsky said, adding that the difficult experiences of war have united Ukrainians. “I feel the pain of every Ukrainian who lost someone or something. The only thing that stays in my mind, when I read it in the news feed or hear it from my friends, is ‘how can I help?’
Kalatsky said his father went into the army the day the war started, but he still talks to him on the phone every day. “The good thing is that I got close to him,” he said, “trying to stay positive during this difficult time.”
With family and many friends involved in the fighting, “the only thing I have is hope for the end of the war,” he said.
“My mind reminds me that the war may not end this year, but my heart hopes it will,” Kalatsky said. “I am lucky that I have not lost any of my friends and relatives in the war and I hope it stays that way. Everything else doesn’t really matter. We have to do what it takes to survive and show the world an example that aggressors and terrorists like Russia These are nothing but things of the past in modern society.”