Birmingham’s sister city in Ukraine reflects on the war one year since Russia first invaded

Ukraine resident on a year of warfare and the future
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 9:51 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - February 24th marks one year since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Nazar Kovalenko lives in Birmingham’s sister city, Vinntsia. He said the last year has been the longest of his life, with a wide range of emotions.

“I remember on the first three or four days, you just get stuck emotionally. You don’t know what to do,” Kovalenko said. “Should you go to work? Should you be thinking about how to save your family? Should you volunteer? Should you go to military service?”

Kovalenko said the war has become normal for them. He says the only choice they have is to fight back.

“From the outside, it’s this heroic thing but we think that this is just obvious. We don’t have another choice,” he said.

On the one-year anniversary, Kovalenko said conversations about life after the war happen regularly. At his job with the city, they have shifted their focus from development to humanitarian aid. They have already started to prepare for when the war ends.

“Their cities are not available for living right now and for years they won’t be available for living,” said Kovalenko.

Kovalenko is hopeful that the war will end in the next year. He said the defining win is not the territory lost being regained, but rather Russia never thinking about going to war with its neighbors again.

“Not bringing all the territories back to Ukraine will be the win situation. Because it can be temporary. Dealing with Russia as it is right now will be a victory for all of us.”

Kovalenko said when victory day comes, he imagines Ukraine’s allies, including the United States, will also celebrate with them.

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