Ukrainians on first anniversary of Russia’s war: ‘I worry a lot’

Four Ukrainians in Kyiv on Russia’s brutal war, which is barrelling into a second year.

A wounded Ukrainian serviceman and his girlfriend walk past national flags

Kyiv, Ukraine – Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died in Russia’s war in Ukraine, which is entering a second year. Millions have been forced from their homes. And those who have survived are desperate for their pre-war lives to return.

We spoke to four Ukrainians in Kyiv, the capital, on the first anniversary of the conflict.

‘Difficult to see kids who came to fight die after two or three days’

Oleksander Protsuk, 27, a serviceman, former plumber:

“Everything changed. I was a civilian person, a hard-working guy, single, never served in the army. The war forced me to take up arms, to protect my country, because the former ‘brotherly’ nation attacked us.

“The most difficult part was to see how young kids who came to fight die after two or three days. I serve in the Donetsk region, in the town of Pervomaysk. I am going home, got 10 days off duty, I hope to have some rest and get back there.

“In a year, Ukraine will thrive. It will be an independent country. We will build a huge fence to separate us from Russia, let them live their lives, rot behind the fence.

“And the West will thrive together with us, for we are part of Europe. And Russia should rot, we’ve parted ways with them. They will not be forgiven by my generation, and I hope, the next one. I hope for it.”

‘The war made everything worse in my life’

Tetiana Kravchuk, 44, a sales clerk at a stationery store in central Kyiv:

“The war made everything worse in my life. I earn less. I can’t move around the way I used to.

“In the past, I would visit my mum, who is 67, in [the northern region of] Chernihiv, near Belarus. My son used to take me, but now, he can’t [because men his age are not allowed to leave the region they live in]. I can’t go there by myself because I’ll have to change buses three times.