I am a Ukrainian–Jewish–Australian writer born and raised in Kharkiv. Increasingly my city is being compared to Aleppo in Syria.
My childhood friend’s son, Yurii, made a video in English about Kharkiv’s destruction (note, this is highly distressing, please take care when watching). At the end of this video, Yurii pleads for everyone to sign the petition to close the sky over Ukraine. This is what all people in Ukraine, including the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, have been saying for days now. Don’t wait till something beyond unconscionable happens, do it now. Whatever you fear most is happening already. The fight for Ukraine – this is not, even for a second, hyperbole – is a fight for the world. That is what they’re saying.
Yurii’s mum Olha is a psychologist. She’s been working for Proliska, a Ukrainian humanitarian mission active since 2014 and specialising in humanitarian support for and evacuation of civilians, especially those in state institutions such as hospitals and orphanages. They operate under the auspices of UNHCR and are effective and fearless. Proliska means snowdrop. For those who wish to donate to Proliska, I’ll update information on donating from Australia on www.mariabooks4ukraine.com
once I have everything confirmed and verified.
Olha and I studied psychology together in the first ever psychology class in Kharkiv in the late 1980s. When I find her on Facebook and ask if I can help her family, she replies, ‘We are fine, we’re in Uzhhorod, setting up and getting to work. No plans to leave.’ Uzhhorod is in Ukraine’s west. On our screens millions (by now) are crossing the border from Lviv into Poland, but there’s also an exodus to the west of the country where people are trying to find a degree of safety, for now. As I write this a friend calls to say that in Ivano-Frankivsk, also in the country’s west, where her friends run a volunteer network, every house is crammed with people. Her friend is sheltering nine in her house alongside her family. The west of Ukraine is ‘full’.
‘No plans to leave’ is what I hear from friends and friends of friends. All generations. The ‘choices’ my compatriots face are catastrophic. To leave their sons, husbands and fathers behind in order to take their children to hoped-for safety. To leave behind their sick and elderly relatives who wouldn’t survive the arduous journey. To leave their beloved, butchered, heroic motherland so as to be able to come back and rebuild it.
What can we do?
First, give money if it’s possible for you (I know it’s not possible for many after 2+ years of COVID). I’m raising money by giving away my two most recent books, Axiomatic and Otherland
. The info is here: mariabooks4ukraine.com.
My books are what I have to give. They are not special. In Otherland are chapters on WWII, Russia and Ukraine though of course they were written in 2010 when this war was unfathomable. In Axiomatic the last chapter is essentially a conversation between me and my dear friend Alexandra who has just escaped from Kharkiv travelling for three days through what she described as Dante’s circles of hell. There are many charities you may want to donate to beyond the one mentioned on my site. You might be compelled to send money to support the Ukrainian army. I will send you my books regardless of how you direct your donation.
I’m not pushing anything. So many books and essays and blogs are out there you can read. This one for instance from Ukrainian writer, Yevgenia Belorusets.
There’s another petition I’d like to mention. This one urges the Australian government to grant special visas for refugees from Ukraine.
What can we do?
Quadruple our efforts to shift the Australian government’s stance on accepting and resettling refugees. Not only Ukrainian refugees, and not only future refugees – those who are here now, in offshore and onshore detention. We have one of the greatest chroniclers, poets and philosophers of the modern refugee experience in Behrouz Boochani. While PEN has been tireless in its advocacy for Behrouz and others, and while Australia’s given Behrouz Boochani its top literary prizes, he’s living in New Zealand because in Australia anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies continue to win elections.
I hope one day to write to you again telling you about literature in and about Ukraine, but not now.
Now is the time for direct action.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and for your support.
Donate to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal here.
Donate to the UNHCR Ukraine Appeal here.