Motherland Under Attack

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My motherland, the country where I was born and spent 10.5 years of my life, is under an atrocious attack. No cutesy introduction.  No background information. Just this. Kharkiv, the city where I spent half of my childhood, where my parents were born and educated, where they met each other and married, Kharkiv is being bombed as I type this.  Ukraine is being attacked by Russia – its highly aggressive neighbor.

I went into a coffee shop today, sat down, and watched how people went about buying coffee and reading newspapers, and typing on their phones. The barista kept making the cappuccinos, the young lady at the counter kept ringing up customers.  Life just went on in this coffee shop, same as always, and I wanted to scream, “Don’t you realize that my motherland is being attacked?! Don’t you know that bombs are being dropped on and near civilian buildings?!”

I didn’t scream. But I couldn’t get up either. I went and I sat and I stared mostly blankly into my computer, trying to work, but not working. I never actually bought a coffee.  I couldn’t. I wanted to be around people today, but buying lattes seemed frivolous and ridiculous.

I left Ukraine (Soviet Union at that point, in late 1989) as a child, with my parents, sister, and grandmother. I have lived in Atlanta since early 1990 and this city is my home. Probably always will be.  I became a wholly formed person here, I received an education and got married and birthed my daughters and buried loved ones in this city.  Atlanta is my insides.

And yet, I can’t stop crying today, watching footage of the bombs falling and tanks rolling in Ukraine. This connection to my earlier childhood, this thread that I wasn’t even sure existed, all of a sudden feels very concrete and tangible.  I am inextricably linked to Ukraine, to the city of Kharkiv where I learned to walk and talk and went to school and played in parks and made my first best friend.  I wandered the streets and sat on benches with my grandma and picked dandelions and learned to make flower crowns. I took ballet lessons and rhythmic gymnastics and spent summers in the country, drinking milk fresh from a cow. An attack on Ukraine feels like an attack on my childhood, on the early formative years I had there, on the memories I created and cherished.

My motherland is under attack. I don’t know what else to say, but I’m heartbroken. I’m not sure what comes next, but I know there will be money collected for humanitarian efforts, rallies and letters to our Congresspeople, urging them to act, social media movements, and flags and speeches by influential people.  I’m not a believer in “thoughts and prayers.”  I like action, but there’s barely anything for me to act upon. So, this is my stance here, in this space. I stand with the people of Ukraine, the regular people who get up and go to work and raise kids and want to continue living their ordinary lives.  I will think of these people and that country – their country – when I go to bed each night.  I will wish them safety and peace. I will donate money and write to my Congresspeople and do all the things. Because my motherland is under attack.

About the Author
Alla Umanskiy is a writer, Jewish mother, wife, an amateur runner, and a mediocre figure skater, living, working, and raising a family in the Atlanta area. Alla holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism from Georgia State University and a graduate degree in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University. She's been published in various local and national publications, and recently finished translating a book from Russian to English.
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