'Ukrainians are standing against moving this illness:' The latest from Ivan Chaika in Lviv, Ukraine
Ivan Chaika has continued to communicate with NHPR, nearly four weeks after the Russian invasion. The UNH Law grad has remained in Lviv, as the nearby area has been subject to more bombings. His comments here are edited for length and clarity. The messages were sent to NHPR on April 4, 2022.
Recently in Lviv, we had several airstrikes. Some of the people were injured, but I know of no casualties. Most people will take air sirens and alerts, quite seriously. We got mobile applications that notify us about when the danger begins and when it ends. And so it's quite user-friendly to use this mobile application in order to be safe and know when you are able to go outdoors.
I can say that in general, life in Lviv is relatively calm. But you can see military men with guns on the streets, lines of refugees near municipal buildings or NGOs. And we had recently a few days of good weather. So locals and internally displaced people spent some time with kids outdoors. In general, it was a short time when you had more positive emotions. But right now it's again, snowing, cold, windy. So not a lot of people in general outdoors.
I continue to host refugees. Two of them were at my apartment this week. One of them was a military serviceman that was located in western Ukraine for some time, and the other one was a Kharkiv refugee from the east. Several times a month I am donating money, basically splitting the money to several funds that support various Ukrainian forces and sometimes supporting specific volunteers with ad hoc campaigns.
On the other hand, I started my personal physical training that is based on four weeks of military training that I found on the Internet. I plan next week to go to a blood center because I got a personal notification that said my blood is needed. The next two days I will be on a specific diet, so my blood will be more useful and I will have more chances to save somebody’s life.
Of course, sometimes like many people I read the news and updates from the frontlines, sometimes it's very hard to read the news. When I wake up each morning, my first thought is to take my phone and look for the news. I am hoping that I will find good news, that at this time a Russian military ship is destroyed, an ammunition depot is bombed, or significant military personnel defeat for Russian forces.
I got my legal degree in Kharkiv in 2014. I lived there for around six years, so I know the city very well. I can say that this is basically my second native city and I know not dozens but hundreds of people there. And I am very worried about what's happening there each day.
Right now, Ukrainians are standing against moving this illness across our territory and European Union as well.
'Work and helping the army. Everything else is not important,' sent on March 20.
For the weekend, I came to my parents’ house because my parents are a little bit worried. I am spending these two days with them and tomorrow I will return back to Lviv, which in a week was bombed twice by Russian rockets.
One time it was an international military base, and the second one was an area repairment factory. So I assume it will be more because Lviv is around a lot of important infrastructure, civil and military. A lot of different activities right now started in Lviv. I assume it will be more, unfortunately, in the next days.
There are big lines at military recruitment centers. A lot of people are joining military bases, territory defense forces. There is huge support from Ukrainians for the armed forces of Ukraine.
Because there are a lot of reservists with military experience right now, I am trying to continue to work because this is the second front line that we have right now. Our economy should be also supported. So I try to continue to work, to pay taxes, to financially support the army, the volunteer centers and the territory defense forces.
If it will be needed, as I mentioned before, then, we will go to the training and to the military base if needed.
It's very simple right now with what [we] are doing. Basically, only two things: Work and helping the army. Everything else is not important, irrelevant, and not worth spending time on.
And this is important because I assume that this war against Russia, will be continuing for a few weeks. I hope no more. And during this time, it's very important to be emotionally stable, to have high motivation. So right now, all my thoughts and my activities are around this, so it's very important to be strong right now and not to show some panic or ignorance.
And it's very important not to be shy and not to do anything. It's important to act.
I am very thankful to all Americans that are supporting Ukraine by doing different actions, by financial support, military support, information support, humanitarian support, etc. It's very helpful. And it's really interesting that right now Ukraine is fighting with the so-called second, largest and strongest army in the world [ed note: Russia]. But as you see right now in videos, TV shows, etc. they are not so strong. The Ukrainian army right now is showing that we can fight and we can win.
—March 22, 2022
Find a list of organizations collecting financial resources for Ukrainians here. The Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church is also currently accepting donations to send to Ukraine.
Updated: March 11, 2022
In 2017, Ivan Chaika spoke at his graduation ceremony from UNH Law in Concord about how he hoped to help Ukrainians in their long fight against Russia.
“I needed to help them,” he said, according to The Concord Monitor. “Because they need to think about protecting the country, not legal issues.” At that time, there was still a war in the eastern part of the country following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
But since Russian forces launched a full invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, it seems like helping has become Chaika's whole life. And as more horrific reports of civilian casualties come out of the country, he’s not leaving his city, Lviv, anytime soon. NHPR interviewed him via an exchange of voice memos.
“I will definitely not leave Ukraine,” he said. “I will take the gun and I will fight for the freedom of my people.” As the country has enacted martial law, it’s also true that most men are legally barred from leaving.
Chaika has not started fighting yet, but he’s preparing to join a local defense force. He said many of his male friends have joined the military bases or local defense forces or helped with local volunteering.
It didn’t have to be this way for Chaika. Earlier in the year, he was working in Sri Lanka with his professional colleagues. When reports of a potential invasion from Russia emerged, he could have stayed there, where it was safe. But even as he kept seeing that stressful news, he and his team returned.
“I am very grateful that everybody was thinking the same way,” he said. “I am really very grateful that I am Ukrainian. “
As of Friday, Russian forces haven’t attacked Lviv, but the city has been inundated with refugees. Housing for the influx of people is starting to become a problem. Chaika is hosting one refugee from Kyiv in his apartment. Because his place is small, Chaika is sleeping on the floor. His parents are hosting six refugees from the city of Kharkiv. Chaika said he’s also limited his expenses so he can contribute financially to the war effort.
Chaika said the first reports of the shooting and killing related to the invasion caused panic, but as the days have gone on, he and his family have become calmer, concentrating on how they can be united and help the country during the war Russia started.
He knew something had changed when he went to his parents’ home after the war started. While he was taking a walk, he was stopped by Ukrainian police with rifles. The police went through his documents and computers – because, he said, people in western Ukraine have started to be concerned about spies.
When asked what he wanted people in New Hampshire to know about the crisis, he said financial support to fight the humanitarian crisis was one of the main things people could do to help. He also asked Granite Staters to boycott Russian products and to halt their business in Russia. And he said the country needs more medical kits and military gear, like helmets, as the military continues to take in volunteers.
“Ukraine right now is standing up front and trying to protect democratic values,” he said.
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Christina Phillips and Peter Biello contributed to this story.