A group of Stow residents gathered in Stow Center in support of Ukraine after Russia invaded that country. Photo courtesy Kathleen Konno.
Published in The Stow and Bolton Independent March 2, 2022
by Ann Needle
As Americans watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine from a safe distance, for one Stow woman, the story strikes much closer to home.
“It’s been five days, but it feels like forever,” reflected Evgenia Petrova on Monday of the battle unfolding in her homeland of Ukraine. Petrova moved to the U.S. in 2015, leaving behind relatives and friends and the land where she was born.
For now, Petrova said she is still able to keep in contact with her family and friends that live outside of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to get firsthand information on what is happening there.
As with many other expat Ukrainians, Petrova said she has been texting her contacts frequently with, “How are you?” just to know they are alive. “You didn’t know how strongly you could feel when you see those three dots when the person is typing [texting]” a response, she said.
Thousands of Ukrainians are staying put in their towns, attempting to fend off the Russian invasion. Others are fleeing to the west and to bordering countries such as Poland. This will likely trigger a variety of needs for the world to address, but it is still tough to tell what those will be.
“They’re in shock,” Petrova remarked of her Ukrainian family. “Most of them have not slept in 4 or 5 days because of the noise, because of the smell. They’re not thinking what will I do in 5 days, what will I do in 10 days.”
For now, Petrova stressed she is focusing her efforts on educating friends and fellow Stow residents on the reality of life under invasion, and the potential fallout for the rest of the world.
“You Don’t Know What’s Safer”
“We keep sharing why this is happening, so it can be stopped,” Petrova said. “Putin attacked Ukraine unprovoked and unjustified, and if Ukraine gives up, who is he coming for next? For Ukrainians, it really feels like the battle of good and evil now.”
Petrova said a number of Russians continue to believe the propaganda being issued by the Russian government. Russian media is asserting that its military has not attacked civilian targets, but civilians have already died, Petrova said.
The Russians apparently have made it to a suburb outside of Kyiv, with many of the roads around there jammed with Ukrainian military. But, given the Russians’ proximity, Petrova said, “Sometimes they’re not sure if it’s Ukrainian or Russian.”
A friend of Petrova’s was at first considering leaving Kyiv, but lack of a car and jammed traffic stopped that, Petrova said. Then there has been a curfew to deal with, making lengthy travel difficult. “You don’t know what’s safer – staying in the apartment or go to the shelter and pray,” she commented. Petrova noted that others she knew were holed up in a windowless basement for hours after an air strike on a nearby oil facility, hunkered down away from the overwhelming smell.
Sending Care Home
Born in 1991 in Kyiv Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, Petrova reported she moved here after several visits on vacation with her sister in Virginia. “I was amazed at how free people were here. I felt like I belonged here,” she said. Petrova reported she had been working as a marketing director for Shell in Ukraine, and transferred those skills to a similar position with a biotech firm when she moved to Massachusetts. She became a U.S. citizen in 2020. Her parents and two children, ages 11 and 25, are also living here.
While the family enjoys its American life, Petrova remarked, “Until now, I never realized how much of a Ukrainian I am.”
Petrova said that Ukrainians are still assessing what type of needs they will have from those looking to help, although food and medicine are likely to top that list. However, Petrova continues to vigorously seek out ways to be ready when the time comes. She said she has collected about $1,000 through her Venmo account — which others are welcome to give to — and plans to add another $1,000.
Petrova said she is reaching out to local Ukrainian organizations to find out where and how they will channel their dollars and assistance. Petrova also emphasized she is eager to hear from other Ukrainians in the local area, who are welcome to contact her at [email redacted for privacy – please email [email protected] if interested in contacting Evgenia].
“I feel like it’s fighting for the whole world,” Petrova said of her Ukrainian homeland. “The Ukrainian people will need a lot of support.”