Voices From Ukraine: Hope and Fear with Russian Army at Border

Almost eight years after the dawn of the Russo-Ukrainian War, feelings of unease and angst continue to linger in the hearts and minds of Ukrainians. The threat of a novel Russian invasion is palpable.

Ukrainians have lived in a state of ceaseless uncertainty for close to a decade now, always aware of the dominating power of their neighbor. Still, hope remains. The country is teeming with artists, musicians and changemakers, all eager to bring light to the streets of Ukraine.

There is no doubt as to the strength of Russia, and Ukrainians are not immune to the looming threat from their neighbor. But they will not surrender. Their voices tell of the hopes and fears of their country.

Newsweek reached out to people in Kyiv, the capital, and Vilne, a village of some 400 people across the Black Sea from Russian-held Crimea, asking them to talk about what life is like with a massive army camped on the border of their country, poised to invade. This is what they told us.

Polina Doroshenko, artist and illustrator, Kyiv

Polina Doroshenko with little girl Kyiv
Polina Doroshenko is pictured here with her daughter, Stefaniia, standing in front of an illustration by Tania Yakunova during a presentation of the book, "Illustration in Ukraine" in Kyiv, Ukraine in November 2021. Photo Provided

"Everyday I go to the city center and everything looks as usual. People sitting in a cafe, walking, working. But for sure the theme 'war' is constantly on everyone's lips and minds. My friends and I feel a high level of anxiety."

"In general, I believe that Western partners, America, and the common sense of civilized people are influencing and helping to deter Russia from a full-scale attack on Ukraine. Maybe I'm an optimist. But at the same time I feel that all our strategic partners are tired and more thinking about their own interests when the Ukranian theme is backstage."

"People are really motivated and believe in our country and future. But with such a big and aggressive neighbor it isn't enough. I am afraid to realize that my belief in civilizational change and wisdom is wrong, that my optimism was wrong."

Vika Haiboniuk, documentary filmmaker, Rivne

Vika Haiboniuk in Rivne, Ukraine
Vika Haiboniuk photographed in Rivne, Ukraine. Photo Provided

"Life carries on as normal, but reading the news about a possible invasion and military supplies from other countries definitely creates anxiety."

"People are worried about a new possible Russian invasion. In the last few weeks they are getting more afraid due to the news."

"I think that panic in the media is the worst thing right now. It influences our everyday life."

Andrii Susenko, business consultant, executive coach,
"How Do You Think" podcast host, Kyiv

"Life here is absolutely going on. We are living in this state of mind since 2014 when the war began. So for us, it was more of an 'okay, what now?'"

"I don't believe there will be a full blown invasion or full blown war at this point. But definitely we should expect tension in the Eastern parts of Ukraine."

Andrii Susenko at the Kyiv Food Market
Andrii Susenko photographed at the Kyiv Food Market, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo Provided

"I would like to receive a more proper and more regular communication. Today we have one type of information. Tomorrow, another type of information."

"One day they say, 'Okay buy some gas for your car. You need to have extra gas,' The next day, 'Please do your work well, live the life that you want to live, but go train how to shoot. Make sure you have an extra connection to your parents. It's all good, we're controlling everything.' That's what the minister of defense is saying."

"My feeling is that we're going to stay in this state of hybrid warfare for at least 30, 40 years. It's a very tiring thing. It's constant tension."

"We know this — if Russia wants, it will start the war. But we are a different country now, not like 2014. The army is way stronger right now. The shooting range is booked, and it's been booked for the last month and a half. Ukrainians want to know how to defend themselves better than before."

"You know how to defend. You adjust to this type of life, and you have a good life, but if needed, you always know what to do. That's what I'd like, as a Ukrainian. We have so much more to offer to the world than news of the war."

 Rivne, Ukraine Night Snow
A snowy night in Rivne, Ukraine. Photo Provided: Vika Haiboniuk