- The war in Ukraine that began with Russia’s invasion on February 24 has lasted six months.
- Insider spoke to four Ukrainians about their experiences and how their lives have been changed by this conflict.
- “The only thing I have is to stay optimistic about the war ending,” one man said.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, igniting the largest armed conflict Europe has seen since the Second World War. Wednesday marks exactly six months since the war began.
Millions of Ukrainian people have fled their country since Russia launched its unprovoked war, but Ukraine’s fighting-age men, those between 18 and 60, are prohibited from leaving should they be needed to defend the nation.
Ukrainians have experienced loss on a myriad of levels in this war. The lives they once knew are gone. The time they would have spent with their families will never be given back to them. And the loved ones they’ve lost can’t be replaced.
Indeed, this war has taken a toll on different people in a variety of ways. Yet even in the midst of the suffering and uncertainty, the Ukrainian people are still fighting to remain optimistic and stand united behind Ukraine’s armed forces. That said, hope can be hard to come by in the face of war.
Insider recently spoke with four Ukrainian men about how their lives have changed and how they’re holding up six months into the war. These are their stories, thoughts, and experiences.
‘No other options than victory’
Valentyn Desiatnyk, a 38-year-old resident of Kyiv, said that there’s “no doubt” the most difficult part of the war has been “my friends’ funerals,” telling Insider that “it is so unfair to lose those prominent youngsters because of the occupant,” referring to the Russians.
But despite these painful losses, Desiatnyk has done his best to stay busy and push forward over the past six months.
Desiatnyk said he started volunteering at the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, which supports the military and people affected by the invasion, two days after the war began. He said he wanted to help the Ukrainian forces “fight back against Russian aggression.”
“For the first couple of months, it was almost 24/7 serving,” Desiatnyk said. “Then the front line moved from the Kyiv region to the east and south of Ukraine, so we could breathe out and try looking for the war-life balance.”
In many ways, “life is pretty much the same as before the full-scale invasion,” other than the “air raid alerts, curfews, and shocking news from the front line,” he said.
Desiatnyk said “nobody knows” when the war will end, but he’s still feeling “calm and confident.” He said “we have got no other options than Victory” and called the Ukrainian troops “the Gods of War.”
“I am sure that Ukraine will prevail, as our people and government are united like never before!” he said. “There are a lot of stories for inspiration and everyday motivation to be involved in national resistance.”
‘I feel mostly depressed’
Oleksii Rozanov, 28, in Dnipro, was less optimistic, saying he feels “exhausted, tired and hopeless.”
“Maybe in the beginning I had hopes that this will be over soon, but right now I feel mostly depressed and feel that life is just passing by,” Rozanov said, adding that the life he knew before the war “just vanished.”
Rozanov said one of the most difficult aspects of the war has been coming to terms with the fact that “nothing will be the same as it used to be anymore.”
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 hard for him to accept that the war wouldn’t be over by summer, his favorite season after autumn. “I waited for this summer so much and for all the plans I had,” Rozanov said.
“I used to travel a lot, used to do a lot of self-development and exploring the world,” he said.
But with the war leaving him stuck in Ukraine, he is instead taking time for introspection. “Right now I kind of like rediscovering myself in all the aspects like who I am, what I am, what I like, and where I want to be, etc.,” Rozanov said. “I can say that my biggest change that happened was the reboot of my life.”
‘Feels like we are living in a dystopia’
Dmitry Scherbina, a 32-year-old living in Lviv, said that the most noticeable change about life since the invasion has been how it robbed him of the ability to make plans. At the most, he can only look ahead to what might happen in the next week.
“You can’t predict what you would do and where you would be in one month,” Scherbina said. It’s changed his perspective. “I think I started to value life more,” he said, and instead of making long-term plans like he used to, Scherbina said he’s focused on “living here and now, as tomorrow may not happen.”
Scherbina said that being a Ukrainian these days is like buying a “lottery ticket” due to the Russian missile attacks that seem to rain down randomly across the country. “Safe day for you, means casualties in another city,” he said. “We will not be the same as we were before the war.”
“It’s hard to accept this reality and feels like we are living in a dystopia,” he said, adding that he started going to therapy in March, which has helped his emotional stability.
People who have seen the war with their own eyes are “already broken ones,” Scherbina said, underscoring that it will affect children and generations to come.
For Scherbina, the most challenging part of the war has been hearing so many stories of personal loss on top of the news of massacres like Bucha. “I’ve talked to people from the front lines. It’s hard,” he said.
Scherbina said that what all Ukrainians want moving forward is “victory and a peaceful sky.”
‘The only thing I have is to stay optimistic about the war ending’
Stanislav Kalatsky, 30, in Dnipro said that “everything has changed.”
“Everyday life maybe hasn’t changed much, but the war created a new reality,” one of “fear and uncertainty,” he explained.
“Your life changes drastically whenever a war knocks at your door,” he said.
Half a year of war has been “really exhausting emotionally,” Kalatsky said, adding that he’s been eating and sleeping less, although he does try “because I need it to survive.”
“Right now my mind is desperately searching for security for myself and my family,” Kalatsky said, going on to say that the tough experiences of the war have also united Ukrainians. “I feel the pain of every Ukrainian who lost someone or something. The only thing that keeps going in my mind, whenever I read it in the news feed or hear from my friends, is ‘How can I help?'”
Kalatsky said his father went into the army the day the war began, but he’s been speaking to him on the phone every day. “The good thing is that I became closer to him,” he said, adding that he’s “trying to stay positive during these hard times.”
With family and a number of friends involved in the fighting, “the only thing I have is to stay optimistic about the war ending,” he said.
“My mind reminds me that the war probably won’t end this year, but my heart is full of hope that it will,” Kalatsky said. “I am lucky not to lose any of my friends and relatives in the war and I hope it will remain so. Everything else doesn’t really matter. We should do what it takes to survive and show an example to the world that aggressors and terrorists like Russia are nothing but a thing of the past in modern society.”