Menz Magazine

Florida woman remains hopeful that her people’s fighting spirit will survive despite the loss of her family in Ukraine

Credit: Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Elena Ivy has not yet slept a wink since Russia invaded Ukraine. Although the 40-year-old is safe in South Florida, far from the dangers that her fellow Ukrainians face, her heart is with her parents, brother, sister-in-law, little niece, and many friends who remain in war-torn Ukraine.

As Russian troops continue to destroy important cities in the area, Ivy tries to maintain her faith. She grew raised in a small Ukrainian town some 100 miles from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been under attack. Her concerns of uncertainty rise with each passing hour and reports of further bloodshed.

“We are heartbroken. We are barely sleeping at night. We are watching the news 24/7,” Ivy spoke out about Inside Edition Digital.

Ivy said she could still communicate with her parents at the time of publication, but that may no longer be the case if the communications and information infrastructures are damaged.

“Every moment I am checking on them. Every half hour, I am asking, ‘Are you OK?’ My biggest fear is that if I lose connection with them, I will not know if they are alive,” She said.

“I TOLD HER, ‘THERE IS NO TOMORROW. THERE IS NO SCHOOL, NO WORK, ONLY WAR.’”

Ivy is infected with terror every day.

On Friday, when Russian forces attacked and seized Europe’s largest nuclear power station, all she could do was sit and wait. The attack sparked international condemnation and concerns about a nuclear disaster. The fire at the plant was out of control, according to Ukrainian officials, and there were no nuclear leaks. The fear of what would happen next remained.

And all she could do on Thursday was sit and wait since there were several reports that the port city of Mariupol, which has a population of approximately 400,000 people, had been hit by severe shelling and was in serious condition. Residents were left without water, heat, or electricity due to a lack of heat or power. It is not clear how many people were evacuated and how many were killed or injured, according to Mariupol authorities.

The city of Kharkiv, which had a population of 1.2 million people, has been destroyed by Russian soldiers. A Russian military convoy has stalled 19 miles outside of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital and largest city with a population of almost 2.9 million people, according to senior US defense officials. Russia has unleashed around 480 missiles on Ukraine since the invasion, according to authorities.

Vladimir Putin’s soldiers have only been able to take control of Kherson in the south, according to sources. According to some reports, despite Russian shelling, Kyiv (Kharkiv), Chernihiv (Mariupol), and Kharkiv (Chernihiv) remained in Ukrainian hands.

Despite the grim outlook, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been providing regular video updates to the nation from Kyiv. On Thursday, he stated that the Ukrainian lines are holding. “We have nothing to lose but our own freedom,” He said: Reuters reported.

And, with three assassination attempts on his life that were thwarted, Zelenskyy remains defiant.

“(They say), ‘I’m here, it’s mine, and I won’t give it away. My city. My community. My Ukraine,’” Zelenskyy expressed concern about the message that the Ukrainian people sent to Russian troops. His message was transmitted Monday evening from his government office. CNN reported

“Some powerful people have decided to give up on Ukraine. But we will not allow that,” Zelenskyy said in an impassioned Facebook address Tuesday. In his message, he called on world leaders to supply “lifesaving” The news outlet reported that military aviation was included in the report.

“NO ONE IS HIDING IN FEAR. THE SPIRIT IS STRONG. UKRAINIANS WILL FIGHT FOR THEIR COUNTRY.”

Ivy is trying to be strong for her family, who have reassured her that they have enough food and water. The shock and sting of hearing of the invasion are still around.

“None of my friends and family living in Ukraine would actually believe the war would actually happen,” she said. “They never thought Russians, who are our brothers and sisters, would actually dare do what their President wanted.”

She had a “bad feeling” when she saw Russian troops surrounding her country in the weeks prior to the invasion.

“My Ukrainian friends living abroad in Canada, Spain the U.S.— We were sure war would really happen,” she said. “I called multiple times to my friends and my family offering help to evacuate before it started. It was like we had a crystal ball that we knew this would happen and this was not a joke.

“I never had a doubt that there would be a war,” she continued. “People in Ukraine, on the contrary, had a very relaxed tone and felt that we [people in other countries] were being fed wrong information and that we were being negative.”

She said she spoke to one friend in Ukraine 24 hours before the invasion. She said it was a “last attempt.”

“I told her, ‘I think you should leave. You have two small children.’ I told her to go to any destination she can possibly think of. She told me ‘I have work tomorrow.’ I told her, ‘There is no tomorrow. There is no school, no work, only war,’” she said.

Her friend stayed and is now one of the thousands of people hiding in shelters, looking for a quick end to the war.

WE WANT TO BE INDEPENDENT. NOBODY WANTS TO GO BACK TO THE SOVIET UNION. THIS IS A VERY CLEAR MESSAGE FROM THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE.”

“I told them the war was coming, but all my family and friends said the same thing: ‘We know this can happen, but we hope it won’t,” she said, getting emotional.

She paused to collect herself, noting it felt as if, “No one listened.”

Those who heeded Ivy’s and other warnings, or chose to evacuate once the invasion started, had a tough time. One of my friends walked to Romania with her baby. She was greeted at the border by volunteers who gave her hot soup and a warm blanket for her baby.

Since the invasion, approximately two million people have fled Ukraine, according to UN officials. Many people are reluctant to leave their country.

Despite some of the country falling down, Ivy said, the Ukrainian state of mind is “We will win this war!” Many can be heard reciting one of the popular Ukrainian slogans: ”Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!

“People are very patriotic and united. No one is hiding in fear. The spirit is strong. Ukrainians will fight for their country. They are saying, ‘This is my home.’ ‘This is my land, and I am not leaving. I don’t ‘want to be a beggar or refugee and start my life from zero,” she said.

Ivy’s 65-year-old father and 35-year-old brother have signed up for the territorial defense. “They are ready to fight and protect,” She said.

“My father is a retiree and technically he can leave if he wants to, but they don’t want to leave their son behind,” she said of her parents. “They don’t want to be separated. And, they don’t want to leave their homes. Their life.”

The most terrifying moment is at nightfall when the attacks escalate. The sirens are loud, but they signal that it’s time to flee to the bomb shelters. Ivy’s family spends their evenings there among mothers, babies, little children, elderly grandparents, the disabled, and the sick, all of whom have uprooted their lives and are now stuck inside metro stations, unable to return home.

Ivy’s family, however, remains in danger after creating such a dismal routine. Her family is among those who have had or know someone who has had a close call; a drone hit not far from their home.

War and the life that accompanies it finally came for the generation who were taught to avoid it at all costs. “People my age have a strong connection to the Second World War because our grandparents lived through the war,” Ivy said. “When we were children, I grew up with this fear of hunger. It has been in our heads since we were little children.

“It’s frustrating that I cannot convince my family to leave. Many of my friends left, and the men stayed to fight. I am scared for them, of course, but my family made their choice to stay,” she continued. 

Despite the death and despair happening around them, she said that her family is “staying strong and believe we will win.”

The UN Human Rights Office released official data on civilian deaths since the invasion began on Monday, but warned that the real figure could be significantly higher. According to the report, 406 civilians have been killed, including 27 children, with a further 801 people injured.

“This is the most heartbreaking,” Ivy said. “We have a country where we elected our own president. We want to be independent. Nobody wants to go back to the Soviet Union. This is a very clear message from the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is not part of Russia. It was never part of Russia. People are peaceful without guns. They are trying to stop Russian tanks and the Russian military, asking them to go away and go back to their home, which is another country.

“Our biggest fear is that this is not the end,” she continued. “It is not only Ukraine who will suffer. People in Europe are at risk. We are all at risk. This has to stop.”

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