Letters from Katya in Kyiv, Ukraine; written in air raid shelters.

February 24, 2022:

Dear Inna: I hear explosions everywhere. The war has started.

Thank you for your love,

Katya.

July 29, 2022:

Greetings Dear Phyllis and Kendall:

This is Katya from Ukraine. Inna told me that you are the example of beautiful, true love. Because of that, I feel that I know you in person.

The son of my best friend was born a month before the war started. He is 6 months old, and only now do I realize the war has been going on for half a year.

For many Ukrainians, time stretches or shrinks here. For many people the seasons blend together. Spring has ended and summer begins. February put life on a pause that never ends.

I have returned to Kyiv where I live and work. My workshop was miraculously intact. Volunteers from Territorial Defense lived in the building to defend Kiev. (Those who are older than 60 cannot join and are sent home.) When I returned, I was afraid to go to my studio, fearing the worst. Everybody who stayed there left our work intact. The ceramics had not been fired due to the war and were very fragile. If you glaze a piece and do not fire it, it is ephemeral like the wings of a butterfly and can be destroyed merely by a touch. I found all my work intact and undamaged. Every piece was where I had left it. Our military volunteers, who had lived there for many months in the most extreme circumstances, showed so much respect for the ceramics.

My boyfriend proposed and I accepted. It was kind of a funny and hectic wedding.

I had to edit our wedding picture and Photoshop a tuxedo on my groom instead of his military fatigues. My husband’s grandmother would be very upset for his safety if she learned he had enlisted.

The family does not want to upset her even more because she is already heartbroken having to leave her generational family home to live with strangers. My mother-in-law, my husband’s brother and their grandmother had to flee Eastern Ukraine and leave everything behind because it was a dangerous hot spot. This grandmother was a math teacher and had private students as well. Two days after they left, Russian rockets destroyed their apartment building. They were very lucky after a fashion.

I adopted a puppy I had to bottle-feed because he was so small and a mortar had killed his mother. Now I have a gentle and joyful friend. Ukraine has lots of animals that need shelter because animal shelters were destroyed by bombs, or the animals had to be abandoned when their owners had to flee. Volunteers evacuated some pets from occupied territories and found some lucky pets new homes.

Months of war are leaving endless damage to buildings and homes and injured civilians and our military defenders. In my city, Kyiv, life is strange. On the surface it seems ordinary. For example, I can come and go to supermarkets and to my favorite cafe for coffee.

But only 20 kilometers from me is the destroyed city of Irpin, where we go on our days off to shovel debris from ruined buildings and try to salvage others. We put plastic over shattered windows and nail wood over broken doors to protect what is left so people can some day return and restore their homes.

Life goes on and we need to adjust to life in a changed world. Just next to us, friends die or are injured. Even when you know someone for only a short time, their death touches you more than other losses. It is unimaginable that Russia has so many planes, drones and ammunition. Sometimes I want to wake up and find this was all just a terrible nightmare.

I want to tell you about your financial help for my mother and me. The main part of it is saved. My mother and I can work again and can afford to buy food. But part of the money went to buy a Kevlar vest to protect my husband in battle. I bought it for him at the beginning of the war and I also bought him special headphones to protect his hearing from the noise from anti-tank and anti-missile weapons. My husband, who was a mechanical engineer before the war, is now trained to use anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, as well as a howitzer.

Part of the money you sent as a wedding present went to help a wounded friend so she could survive transportation abroad for urgent treatment.

Here in Kyiv it is relatively safe because we have a good air defense system. But there is no fully safe place in Ukraine anymore because Russian bombs and rockets land anywhere.

Our country was not prepared to enlist so many volunteers. So, our country was also not prepared to outfit our military and had only the minimum defense equipment.

American weaponry support is an enormous help. I know, too, that Americans also suffer from this European crisis and because of inflation. But thanks to America’s help, the Ukrainian economy is still holding. Our soldiers are paid a decent salary.

We can work, live and help our loved ones, and our soldiers can keep defending us.

With gratitude for your help and best wishes to you and Kendall,

Katya

Katya and her family are ethnic Russian/Ukrainians. Inna Bezborodko of Rockland has translated these letters. Inna begins each day communicating with Ukrainian friends to see if they are still alive. Midcoast supporters of Ukraine have made financial contributions toward humanitarian aide to this family.