Diane Baima: A holiday season filled with thoughts of Milwaukee but with the trauma of war in Ukraine
People often ask me how we are doing, how is the situation in Ukraine, what it is like to live through an invasion.
Usually, I am so busy that I do not have time to process how I am doing. The internet works sporadically, so I can only follow the news sometimes. When the electricity is on, my husband Yurii and I are trying to do what we must while we can. Clean, cook, shop, take care of animals, and such. And it is December, so it gets dark by 5:00 p.m.
Recently Yurii and I went to the nearest city, Boryspil, to do some shopping. Yurii needed feed for the animals so we went to the market first. It was closed except for the feed store. And there was no electricity. Then we went to a supermarket, and it was closed because there was no electricity.
Then we tried another market, but it turned out to sell mostly building materials, so we went to another supermarket in the mall. The mall was full of people waiting in the dark for the electricity to come on.
Yurii wanted to leave right away, but I wanted to stay. I figured that these people would not all wait if there was no hope to be able to get food. While waiting, I watched families take photos in front of the Christmas tree that decorated the mall. Others were shopping with flashlights in clothing and jewelry stores.
I was inspired by the positive mood and the patience. After 15 minutes, the lights came on. Everyone gave a small cheer and began doing their errands. I knew I had seen another reason why Ukraine will win this war.
Earlier this month, someone asked me how I will celebrate Christmas this year, and I felt depressed and sad.
I have put all of my energy and enthusiasm into making the holidays special and fun for my Ukrainian students, despite the war. But when winter break begins, it will be just Yurii, me, the pets, and of course my mother in-law.
Too many people have died, lost their homes, and been traumatized for us to want to organize any holiday parties. And there is no stable electricity to rely on. So I guess I will make something tasty, Yurii will light the fireplace, and we will snuggle with cats and a book this Christmas. And know that I am lucky to have this much.
Now I live near Kyiv, and am a resident of Ukraine. But I will always be a part of Milwaukee too. It seems each week friends from Wisconsin write to me asking how they can help people in Ukraine.
I get requests like this: I want to make and send new fleece blankets, how can I get them to Ukraine? Can I send you some money to help people buy warm clothes? How can I help with school supplies for Ukrainian children? My class wants to learn more about Ukraine. Could we meet with your class on Zoom?
Many have expressed interest in helping Ukrainian refugees who are living in Milwaukee too.
It will not be an easy winter here in Ukraine, but we will persevere. And for me, having the support of my Wisconsin friends makes this war much less lonely and scary, even though I cannot see them, or my American family in person this year.
Diane Baima and Pаvlоvskа Yevhenііа