It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot- why did I go to Ukraine during a war?
Much to the chagrin of those asking, I have no good answer.
Perhaps it’s because I have ADHD? Perhaps it’s due to a tendency to seek out self destruction within the confines of being able to lead a normal life? Perhaps, as some people have suggested, I am just an idiot?
I have a bad habit of doomscrolling through news of wars and strife in other countries; it stresses me out, yet I do it anyway. So when the news broke of Russia invading Ukraine, I was heartbroken.
Humans were not made to have access to this much information about suffering on the global scale.
The news of the war in Ukraine perhaps hit me harder because I visited Ukraine in 2015, the year after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. While there I saw the scars of the uprisings within Kyiv in response to Russian pressures.
From just those few days in Ukraine, the nation's amazing spirit was apparent. Seeing people proud to have faced down the Russian superpower, the energy of Ukrainian patriotism drew me in.
Looking at maps of Russia’s incursion stressed me out. I found myself crying during work one day. A friend made a comment about going to Ukraine to join the resistance. With that the proverbial lightbulb pinged up above my head, “I should go to Ukraine!”
Investigating the humanitarian route, I heard about the efforts in Poland to support refugees, and that Warsaw was seeking English-speaking volunteers.
A friend put me in contact with a photographer who was going to Poland and myself and another friend who was eager to volunteer joined up with him and the three of us set off from London.
Our plan was to stay in Poland. We made a decision to head to Przemyśl, a border town from which those exiting Ukraine were processed through. Of course, that plan did not last long.