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Resilient Citizens - Resilient Country

Global Voices Essay Contest

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Published: Monday, 26 Jun 2023 Author: Anna Didyk

This essay was written by Anna Didyk, age 18, from Ukraine in response to the 2023 Global Voices Essay Contest in Central and Eastern Europe. Anna was awarded second place for this entry.

A woman poses smiling for the camera on a balcony with her arm on the railing.

The beginning of 2022 became difficult and demanding for all Ukrainians. The terrible date of the 24th of February changed everything in the social order of the world, and the way things were in the past will not fall back into place after the war. But it is vitally important to remember people's power to endure and to live with it. Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, this conflict has lasted a long time. It is important to point out how the Ukrainian nation, together with the country’s supporters, took a beating for 1 year of fighting for Ukraine’s right to exist.

1 year is the most essential detail of my essay. I want to demonstrate the timeline of this dreadful, but at the same time, strong-willed period. There is a story from the first day up to today. This story would be an illustration of the growth of our toughness and self-discipline. It would be a collection depicting our fears, worries and doubts. The story is not about the invasion. It is about opposition, freedom and resilience. I invite you to follow my paper and to feel this changeable flow of events.

Initially, people became victims when the full-scale war had only just begun. All these air alarms, emergency evacuations, broken airports and cold shelters sharply met every Ukrainian. Many cities and towns in Ukraine have been affected by ongoing military operations. Additionally, people living in the affected areas often experience shortages of necessities such as food, water, and electricity, and may have limited access to medical care and other essential services. All of it sounds very tragic and causes tears. But it is not my goal to cause compassion. I want to illustrate how we have learned through this period. Firstly, how we adapted to live in such conditions or, I would say, adapted just to exist. And secondly, how we adjusted to continue our learning for the long-term.

Originally, the first days highlighted the need for Ukrainians to come together and stand united in the face of external threats. The conflict has brought people from different regions and backgrounds together, fostering a sense of national identity and solidarity. In other words, the citizens have realized the importance of national unity. 

The next insight that the war has demonstrated is the importance of protecting democracy and human rights, particularly in times of crisis. Ukrainians have fought to defend their right to self-determination, and have highlighted the importance of freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. 

And the last, but not least aspect is the resilience of the human spirit: the war has shown that Ukrainians are resilient people, capable of enduring great hardship and adversity. Despite the challenges they have faced, Ukrainians have remained hopeful for a better future. As a result, the most significant thing is that this “darkness” united citizens. So, from now on, the state has a better collective consciousness and neglects one enemy. 

The second part of this essay I want to dedicate to resilient learning during the war— educational degrees, informal projects and different types of study programs. When the invasion had just started, all educational processes were stopped for a while. Kindergartens, schools and universities were closed. Of course, this delay depended on the region of Ukraine, but more or less it lasted for 3 weeks. After this period, the educational system continued to operate online like it did during COVID-19. Later, some extracurricular projects came back to realization and some new projects started as well. The topic of the realization of after-school programs is a close one for me because I have been taking part in creating non-formal projects since 2019. Before the war, my friends and I engaged in a project for teens on political awareness. Our mission was to teach young and inexperienced voters how to choose candidates for political office.

Unfortunately, the war disrupted our plans. The topic of the project became irrelevant, and we have decided to postpone the program to an uncertain time in the future. In the meantime, I came across another program. My good friends as active as I am in civic participation created a project called “Обізнані” (eng. “Well-informed”). The mission of the project is to get to know Ukrainians through Ukrainian identity, state processes and proactivity. I joined this project immediately and volunteered on it for 6 months. We started our activity on the 5th of March, 2022. Frankly speaking, I am proud of our team for not sitting in one place and for developing awareness of our citizens in tough times. As for me, it is a good example of resilience. You do not think about personal worries. You commit to working for the common good.

The subsequent coincidence that I noticed before writing the essay was extremely surprising for me. I took part in a project called “School of Resilience” a little while ago. It is a project for motivated Ukrainian teenagers that aims to promote education, leadership, and social responsibility among them. The program also provides support to young people affected by the conflict, including those who have been displaced from their homes or who have experienced trauma as a result of the conflict. My role on the project was as a mentor. I had a group of adolescents which I taught to build a team, reflect on their own experiences, analyze lectures and keep in pursuit of self. For us, resilience is associated with an ambition to work on ourselves despite a series of traumatic experiences, realizing that this skill is the most important nowadays and in the future.

After the victory of Ukraine in this bloody war, lots of challenges will be expected from us. We must be ready to rebuild a country of new quality. And what is a country? A country is about its citizens. Therefore, what we are, such is our country, and our mission is to be resilient and unbreakable.