This has been the most terrible week of my life. A week ago, as I was putting my two-year-old son to bed in Connecticut, I got a phone call from my family back home in Kyiv. They’d been woken up at 5 am to the sounds of bombs and explosions. Russia had launched a full-scale war while Ukrainian civilians slept. I’m shocked to see pictures of my friends sleeping in underground bomb shelters with their newborn baby. I have intermittent contact with my family, none of them are safe, and I can only pray that this war will end soon.
You'll notice that Impact's channels have been quiet this week because it hasn't felt right for us to continue our planned content as the atrocities in Ukraine have unfolded. Impact Americas' marketing manager Victoria Sheyko is sharing her thoughts, feelings and experiences with us here, alongside a signpost of resources.
As the eyes of the world are glued to the news, glimmer of hopes can be seen amidst the wreckage: selfless acts of bravery and compassion; businesses channelling their efforts into aid; hundreds of thousands of Russians risking their own safety to protest; leadership emerging in the most difficult situations.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become a global inspiration, proving himself ready to protect his homeland and to fight for human rights, values and independence. Despite being the number one target, Zelenskyy turned down an offer of evacuation from the White House in order to stay on the front line. A true servant of his people, Zelenskyy has shared personal stories of his grandfather’s fight in WW2, focused on Ukrainian culture, and attempted to avoid war by asking to speak to Vladimir Putin directly. He has shown inspiring commitment to his nation, posting daily viral selfie videos raising morale and building strength from fear. Often, politicians act like heroes until they are elected and then they turn out laughable. Zelenskyy started out as a comedian and has become a hero.
But, as Zelenskyy reminds us, the real heroes are the everyday Ukrainian people. Hollywood preconditions us to think of heroes as special, but in reality, true heroes compel us not because they are different, but because they are just like us. Right now, there are thousands of ordinary heroes making individual acts of leadership in the name of a larger cause. Real leadership isn’t a special quality that only certain people have, instead it is found in the domain of the every day, in the people of Koryukivka, who stood together to block the way of advancing Russian forces; in the passers-by who ran to help the elderly driver of a vehicle that had just been crushed by a fifty-tonne tank; in hundreds of workers and locals of Enerhodar who blocked access to a nuclear power plant; and in individuals like Vitaly Skakun, a Ukrainian engineer who volunteered to lay mines on Henichesk bridge, knowing that they would detonate before he could get to safety.
Human empathy, dialogue and compassion are needed now more than ever. Those affected, directly or indirectly, need to be given the time and space to process these atrocities. We must all do what we can to look after each other, support democracy and international peace.
Artwork by Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Milov - ‘Love’