Valeria Chernyscheva is a Ukrainian diving instructor. She has fully dedicated herself to teaching diving classes and selling diving equipment of different brands. She also focuses on organizing diving-related trips to various locations across the world.
When Russia attacked Kyiv on February 24th, Valeria was on a diving trip in Playa del Carmen (Mexico). When seeing how critical the situation was, she jumped into the first flight she could find to Instanbul and then to Poland. A few days later, she managed to arrive in Kyiv, and since then, she has been helping with medical-related tasks.
We got in touch with her, and here´s what she told us about the Russia-Ukraine war situation:
1. When Russia attacked Ukraine, where were you located?
When Russia started to bomb Ukraine, I was in Mexico in Playa del Carmen, I was diving there in caves. I went for 3 weeks to learn new diving equipment and ran into all this trouble.
I was very worried about everything that was happening, all my friends and family were there and I was far away, without being able to do something. I had the option of staying there in Mexico, but I decided to return.
I had a flight to Istanbul that was already paid for, I got there, but flights to Ukraine and Poland were extremely expensive. Thankfully a friend of mine living in Instanbul helped me get to Poland. I then stayed at another friend’s house in Poland and started seeing what I could do from there. I helped organize people, collected things, and sent them to Ukraine.
2. When you arrived in Poland what was the refugee situation?
There are so many volunteers currently helping in Poland. Poland is the country with the most Ukrainian refugees, and they are still receiving more.
I spent a few days in Warsaw helping out, but I also started looking for a way to get to my city, Kyiv. I managed to arrive in Lviv, the largest city near Poland. I had my friends with their children who left the capital and other cities. However, they did not leave the country; they were helping in the ways they could, from food to things for the children, a little bit of everything.
I stayed there one day and decided to go to Kyiv. I’m a primary medicine instructor, so I knew I could go and do medicine.
But overall, in Poland, the refugee situation is critical. It is very difficult for the country, but they resist and give us support, and for that, we are very grateful.
Ukrainians who arrive in Poland receive a place to sleep and food. However, it’s getting more difficult even for those with money to find housing.
3. Could you tell us more about the situation in Ukraine?
I´m currently in Kyiv. I´m helping people who need to get out with children and also with medical things.
With many other volunteers, we help those who remain here, the elderly, those who cannot leave the country, bringing them medicine, and helping soldiers and people who want to fight to get the necessary equipment.
Here are many civilians, both women, and men, who want to fight too, but since they are not properly soldiers, they do not receive the equipment from the government. So we help them to be equipped and protected because they are defending our country.
I no longer think it is surprising that such a small country can resist a power like Russia. And not only resist but also fight. The situation is delicate; we suffer from everything that comes from the sky. Unfortunately, we don´t have much power and equipment to defend ourselves.
Russians are attacking civilians where there is no military to defend them. They shoot at hospitals, prenatal clinics, schools, gardens. They think that by bombing us, we will be afraid. But no, we are not afraid. I mean, we are scared for our loved ones and all civilians who are in danger, but we are more angry. And being angry makes us fight even more.
Most families and women with children leave the country. Many people leave by train and can´t take anything with them. They carry a small backpack and panties in their pockets.
It’s a really difficult situation. When traveling by train, they have to spend entire nights standing because there is not a single space to sit. Most are scared for their children.
Some take their family close to the borders with Poland and return to help. Many people have returned, especially men. They are determined to defend our country. And surprisingly, many people who work abroad in different parts of the world have returned to fight as well. Even non-Ukrainians! I have friends from other countries asking me how they can go to Ukraine and help fight against Russia.
This is what gives us hope and makes us believe in people. It gives us support and encouragement to keep resisting and fighting.
5. What has been the hardest thing you have experienced these days?
The hardest thing I’ve seen is with the little ones. They cry, want to see their fathers and women who don’t know what to do. In many cases, their husbands are fighting, so they have to take care of everything by themselves, terrified something might happen to them.
It has been hard to see people who lost everything, loved ones, and all their belongings. It’s difficult to see how the little ones will get past this. And overall, it’s hard to survive; it’s hard when you have friends and people you love and can’t contact them; you don’t know if they are alive.
6. In what ways can those who are away from Ukraine help?
There are many ways to help us.
If there are people who can foster children, there are many children without parents here in Ukraine. I think that sooner there will be a system to adopt them and that would be a great support.
You can make posts and protests that demand NATO to close the sky to Russia.
We are strong enough to resist, but we do not have the power to close the sky. We do not have so much military power. If people continue making posts, spreading the word of what really is going here, asking Russia to stop the attacks, making petitions, that would be a great support.
Buying medicine, shipping food, military equipment is very necessary for us in these moments. Many people publish what is needed or how much money they need for specific things. You can always ask them!
7. Is there something else you´d like to add?
I want to say that we are going to win.
Thanks to the support of everyone, of countries, of people, it is something enormous how everyone got together here in Ukraine, even the grandparents, children, and people with difficulties still help. They help with everything they can, making Molotov cocktails, social media, petitions, helping others, helping those who cannot walk, and bringing medicine. It is something amazing and so beautiful. We are going to win, for sure.
If Ukraine wins, Europe wins, and the whole world wins. If we lose, everyone loses; this will never end.
I would also like to ask people to be patient too. Many people left Ukraine and are not in a good emotional state, and it is necessary to be patient. Not everyone is going to be nice right now; try to understand them and be patient.
We thank everyone who gives support to Ukraine; it is worth a lot to us. I’m staying in Kyiv. I’m going to stay here and defend my country in whatever way I can. There are many of us here defending Ukraine.
If you want to contact Valeria, visit her Facebook profile!
For more information on how to help Ukraine, check out these resources:
- How to help your Ukrainian colleagues
- How to help volunteers in Ukraine
- How to support your Ukrainian employees