14-Year-Old Ukrainian Prepares to Evacuate Due to Potential Russian Invasion



Ukraine was invaded by Russia early morning on Thursday, Feb. 24. At least 137 Ukrainians were killed the same day, and many residents of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv are evacuating the city. Photo courtesy of @TheKit_13 on Pixabay

On her phone, Sophia scrolled through the news, looking for government reports and speculative articles about a possible Russian invasion on Ukraine. Ambassadors and diplomats were already fleeing from cities in Eastern and Central Ukraine, looking for safer cities in the west, or even different countries altogether. Meanwhile, people discussed theories on whether or not Russia would attack Ukraine. It was Sophia’s country they were talking about, and all she could do was hope that everything would be okay.

Due to a buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian-Russian border and fears of a Russian invasion, Kyiv resident Sophia Havrysh as well as several other Ukrainian families are thinking about evacuating to safer cities in West Ukraine. Many countries have urged their diplomats to flee Ukraine, although for many Ukrainian citizens, evacuation would be “very hard, because people [would] be panicking.”

“I know what I will take, but it would be really sad if I can’t come back,” Havrysh said. “You know, you live [somewhere], you call it something, you have some memories. Of course I will try to come back later if there is still something [left]. Right now, I can tell you, ‘Yes, I’m pretty sure I will evacuate as well, I will be safe,’ but I don’t know what kind of emotion I would feel if they really [do] attack.”

Lviv is an embassy town in Western Ukraine. Many diplomats evacuated there because it is near the NATO army and the rest of Europe, and therefore currently one of the safest places in Ukraine, in comparison to Kyiv, which is arguably more dangerous because it is the capital city and definitely closer to the Russian border.

“Maybe I’ll take my bicycle to Lviv. There’s around 500 to 600 kilometers between Kyiv and Lviv. I think after one month, I’ll finally be in Lviv,” Havrysh said. “But if we were talking for real, I don’t know. I don’t know any place to evacuate to right now.”

Havrysh says the conflict has been lengthy and unceasing. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia began centuries ago, with Russia has attempting to grab Ukrainian territory. The conflict in East Ukraine started in 2014, when Russian troops took control of and formally annexed the Crimean region in Ukraine, as well as seizing control of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“The [politicians] of the Soviet Union [saw] the territory between Ukraine and Russia in a strange way, so Crimea was given to Ukraine, and Russia was like ‘Huh, there’s something wrong, we should have more territory, it’s our territory and we should grab it back,’ so then they attacked us,” Havrysh said. “But I don’t see any sensible reason to attack us. Of course it’s not fair.”

The Ukrainian government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have told civilians including Havrysh to pack “some warm clothes, a few bottles of water, [and] some medical things, in case something happens.”

“Some say that Russia will attack Ukraine today. Some say tomorrow. Some say [they’ll attack] on the 18th of February,” Havrysh said. “About the government, I have a few people who I know. Of course they wouldn’t tell me all the things they know, just some answers on the few questions that I asked them.”

A VPSH poll asked Ukrainian citizens whether they believe Russia will invade soon; 6% voted yes, and 94% voted no. However, over the past few days, Russia has reportedly increased troops on the Ukrainian border. There are currently multiple articles and theories stating reasons that Russia will and won’t attack.

“In Russia, there is a crisis due to Coronavirus. There’s like 200,000 [cases per day]. They already have a crisis and if they attack, countries will give them many sanctions. People will just die because they will not have anything to eat and drink – it’s already a bad situation in Russia,” Havrysh said. “But Putin is kind of crazy and if he wants to, he will drop bombs on Ukraine, and I can die. If I need to evacuate, I know it would be uncomfortable for me, but I think this is one of the most dangerous experiences I could ever live through. I’m scared.”

Editor’s Note:

Russia invaded Ukraine early Thursday, Feb. 24 and the country is now in a state of unrest as violence has erupted. Ukrainian troops are stationed at the north and south of the country as fighting ensues with the Russian army. Uncertainty clings to the air, and Western allies prepare to impose strict sanctions on Russia as the fighting progresses.