Stand with Ukraine: An Ukrainian living in Sheffield’s appeal to Yorkshire as she fears for family in the battle for Kyiv

Lena Mandrik is an Ukrainian-born researcher at the University of Sheffield who has written an open letter to the people of Yorkshire on how they can help Ukraine in its hour of need.

Three generations: This is Olena Mandrik with her parents and daughter in Kyiv a year ago.
Three generations: This is Olena Mandrik with her parents and daughter in Kyiv a year ago.

Dear Yorkshire community,

My name is Lena Mandrik, I am a Ukrainian researcher, have been working and living in Sheffield since I arrived to England in 2018.

We love Sheffield and I and my daughter decided to become permanent residents of this wonderful and quiet city.

An apartment building damaged following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital Saturday, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky).

As many of you know, the Russian army started to bomb the main cities of Ukraine at 5am on the morning of February 24.

Russian tanks and other equipment is moving forward. Today, they target Kyiv, our capital, the beautiful European city and my home city.

Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft, in in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has put combatants and their commanders on notice that he is monitoring Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. But, at the same time, Prosecutor Karim Khan acknowledges that he cannot investigate the crime of aggression. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak, File).

We may think that it is far away and will never concern you personally and I was the same before 2014 when I was reading news about Syria and other countries touched by war.

Then, suddenly, you realise that the most unrealistic events may happen just in one moment and the war can come to your home, to your family.

It is scary to watch the videos of your home city and see the destroyed streets where you walked before, children hiding in the Metro and sleeping on the floor (just as in London during the Second World War), and to know that your family, your elderly parents, and your friends with little children are there.

There are houses destroyed, and thousands of people killed daily, and each moment I just pray not to hear horrible news that someone I know has died, and I hate myself for these thoughts because those whom I do not know are the same wonderful people, brave, inspired, patriotic, who also have their hopes and life in front.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation via his smartphone in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.

What is happening with Ukraine will not just pass by. This is war. Today it is in Ukraine. Maybe some of you cannot relate to it, tomorrow it might be Poland or Slovakia, and soon it will come wherever you are.

We need to be clear: this is not a war for or against NATO. It is a war of totalitarian regimen against democracy. Of evil against good. This is a crime of one insane dictator against our nation, against his nation, and against the world.

I know some people say “this is policy” but it is not. It is a question of life or death and this is point in our life when we need to make choices: do we choose stand aside or do we choose to act, and as Britain did in the Second World War?

I am immensely grateful to Sheffield City Council and the Sheffield community for being ready to support Ukraine and Ukrainian inhabitants. It seems that one individual cannot do a lot, but “constant dropping will wear away a stone”. And we can always do more. So what can we do?

1. Through self-address, by writing to politicians, press, spreading through societal networks, we can raise the voices and stimulate the strongest immediate national actions: isolate Russia completely – diplomatically, culturally, and in sport on an international scale, and block all Russian access to financial and economic markets

and cut off the funding that allows Putin to act with impunity.

2. Please, write, be loud, and if you share on social media use the #StandWithUkraine hashtag. Update your profile picture with the Ukrainian flag. Be public with your opinion. The world needs to hear you.

3. As some companies already did, all businesses that do operations with Russia need to be urged to close them immediately. Remember, each time you do business with Russia (unless a few small cases), you finance the war in Ukraine.

4. The National Bank of Ukraine has opened a special account to raise funds for the Ukrainian Army. Anyone from any country can donate! The account is multi- currency.

5. It is great to see that Sheffield welcomes those fleeing Ukraine but the process of arriving to the country and leaving Ukraine should be clear. UK requires visa submission to the embassy with applications reviewed during one to two months.

There is no embassy in Kyiv now and those who need help the most (vulnerable population), such as elderly and small children, are the most difficult to move out of the city.

Thinking about my elderly parents for whom is difficult to walk to the next street as well as many others, they will need more than just a welcome to be able to be hosted by their family members living in the wonderful city Sheffield.

With sincere appreciation and gratitude to all Sheffield citizens and with a wish peace to all

of us.

Lena Mandrik

Lena Mandrik is an Ukrainian-born researcher working at the University of Sheffield.