Readers with a connection to Ukraine tell all: ‘It pains me to know I will never see my dad’s grave’

Does the situation hit close to home for anyone else? It’s not too late to respond

A woman walks in the rain past a boarded-up Burberry store in central Kyiv on May 18, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Chris Furlong, Getty Images)

Earlier this month, we asked you, readers and viewers, if you could relate to what’s happening in Ukraine.

Maybe you have family in the area, or perhaps you too have fled a war-torn country or situation -- recently or as a child. Is there anything you care to share about that? If you’re comfortable offering up your perspective or experience, from where did you flee? Or, is your family overseas safe?

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A handful of you submitted responses, and they were very powerful. Thank you to everyone who left an answer. (And if you still want to fill out our form, it’s not too late. Scroll to the bottom of this story. We’re still taking responses).

Here are some of those words you shared:

  • “I immigrated from Ukraine in 1995. My family stayed. They passed away a few years ago. My dad is buried in Ukraine (and) my mom is buried in Russia. It pains me to know I will never see my dad’s grave. There’s a small chance I may be able to visit my mom’s cemetery. I have been living in emotional nightmare since 2014, which only intensified after Feb. 24. I used to feel closer to Russia than Ukraine -- not anymore. I despise everything Russian, including a part of my DNA, which has a significant percentage of Russian blood. If I could trade places with any one of those babies who were killed, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
  • “I am a Ukrainian national who has lived in Hollywood, Florida for the last 18 years. I still have my family (who) lives in Ukraine, who have to run to bomb shelters on and off throughout the day. About two weeks ago, my cousin and her 10-year-old son who fled the war had arrived to the USA through the border of Mexico. We will be hosting them at our house as (long) as the U.S. lets them stay.”
  • “I am from Ukraine originally, lived in the U.S. for the past 19 years, and still have relatives there who were misplaced due to the war. My mother came to the U.S. four weeks ago. My father and my sister with her family are still there.”

And this answer, which is long but worth the read:

“In 1997, we arrived at JFK (International Airport) with some duffle bags of what we could carry -- my mom, dad, grandmother, me, and our little silver poodle (Ukrainians don’t leave their pets behind). We left Ukraine on a refugee visa for a better life and safety in the United States. We didn’t speak English. I only knew the word ‘fox’ in English. Two weeks before our flights, my great-grandmother, who was supposed to make the journey with us, passed away. We couldn’t delay leaving, so in our last days in Odessa, we planned a funeral. I remember everything about the beautiful city by the sea I lived in as a kid, but I also remember the fear my family lived in. My great-grandmother and grandmother survived the Holocaust, to then have to shelter my eyes from seeing swastikas spray-painted on Coca-Cola billboards. I’ll never forget when my grandmother covered my eyes as we walked to school, but of course, I peeked and still saw it. I was lectured every day before school not to say I’m Jewish. Of course I didn’t, but when my first-grade teacher asked the class to share who lived in their house and I named the names of my family, she quickly knew. My great-grandmother’s name is Yiddish, but we called her by a nickname to avoid having to say her Yiddish name. Instead of my teacher letting it go, she said, ‘That’s not a name!’

“My parents got called into school to remind them I can’t say I’m Jewish. I never did. Turns out, I didn’t have to. They’d find a way to know. (This is the ‘90s!) Now, we still have family in Ukraine -- some on the west side, some in the southeast. They’re safe for now, but every day is unpredictable. Some family, we haven’t kept in touch with over the years. We hope they’re safe. Some family didn’t leave because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. Some just didn’t want to leave. They said, ‘Where would I go?’ Even though they can come here or neighboring countries, they said it’s their home. They’re older, in their 80s. Nobody wants to leave their homes behind and the life they know. My team at work is all based out of Ukraine. When I tell you how resilient and strong these people are, it’s unbelievable. They continue to work while their country is attacked. ... Their friends are missing, feared dead in the East where the fighting is devastating, but they keep going, despite the heartbreak and fear. From experience when things like this happen, you have two choices: hide or keep going. Ukraine will keep going. The people of Ukraine will keep going and never give up. You can not let evil win. We can not let evil win.”

Some of these have been edited lightly for grammar, clarity and length.

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