The Story Of Ukrainian Citizen, Anastasiya Zvir

Zvir is a junior in college as of now, but she has lived her whole life witnessing the tumultuous times in Ukraine

Anastasiya+Zvir+is+trying+to+return+back+to+her+normal+life+balancing+volunteering+and+college+work+but++never+knows+when+bomb+shelter+will+need+to+be+taken.+

Submitted by Anastasiya Zvir

Anastasiya Zvir is trying to return back to her normal life balancing volunteering and college work but never knows when bomb shelter will need to be taken.

By Elizabeth Hamby , Wentzville Liberty High School

Anastasiya Zvir has lived in Ukraine all 20 years of her life and has had a front-row seat to the making of history in her country. 

She is currently a junior attending Ukrainian Catholic College in Lviv studying political science. Classes are still in session but are frequently interrupted when sirens alert citizens to find the nearest shelter from aerial attacks. A couple of years back Nastia came to the US as a foreign exchange student in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. LHStoday reached out to her for an interview in 2022. 

Zvir said that she has always been very interested in being involved in the political environment of Ukraine and has stepped up for change in her government. She is the head of many political leadership clubs and has helped found an organization called Save Art UA that aims to spread awareness for the ruined historical artifacts and sites that have been destroyed by bombs dropped by Russia in the recent war of 2022. She manages the social media account educating people on the history that has been destroyed and what they can do to help restore the damage that was caused by Russia. 

The relationship between the two countries has been pretty rocky, to say the least, and Zvir has witnessed all of it firsthand. 

I don’t cry anymore. I’m afraid that I have become emotionless.”

— Anastasiya Zvir, Ukrainian citizen

According to Zvir, Ukraine and Russia have always maintained a colonial relationship, Russia always being much bigger and stronger than Ukraine. In fact, it wasn’t until 1991 that Ukraine gained independence from them after the USSR collapsed.  

Unlike the somewhat peace that has been pretty constant since World War II, Zvir has lived through wars and many tumultuous times in Ukraine. When Americans are reading about history, Zvir is living in the making of history. 

“When it all started, I was a kid, and now I’m an adult,” Zvir had said in disbelief. 

She then explained that the events leading up to the current conflict didn’t come out of the blue and has been brewing ever since the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign the agreement to join the European Union (EU) in 2014. She accounts that citizens of Ukraine were very unhappy with the president and felt like he wasn’t making the best decisions for the people of his country. 

If he were to sign the agreement, the EU promised to provide Ukraine with support in different aspects like financial and political standings and provide them access to certain knowledge and trades within the union. 

Anastasiya poses happily in front of a truck carrying many supplies for Ukrainians in need. (Submitted by Anastasiya Zvir )

Zvir, age 12 at the time, helped take a stand with her friends and family to protest the president. 

She summarized the thoughts of her and her country by saying,

“If you (President Victor Yanukovych) are not listening to your Ukrainian people you shouldn’t be our president,” said Zvir.

The peaceful protests in the capital of Kyiv were mainly made up of students, but nevertheless, they were broken up forcefully after the direct order of the president. 

Zvir remembers thinking that she was very upset about the way it ended, especially since she believed that bullets and force should not be the way to interact with peaceful protests. 

In response to that unfairness like most protests that start peacefully, this one turned deadly and came to be known as the Revolution of Dignity. During this fight for justice, it was concluded that 108 activist citizens were killed in the attacks. 

Although it seemed nice that the allegedly “Pro-Russian” Ukrainian president was then removed from power, Russia was still an ever-growing problem for the smaller country. Russia was now stationing soldiers strategically in a territory of Ukraine with the goal to annex it. 

This led to what many call a civil war between Russia and Ukraine, but what Zvir says is the exact opposite, and rather explains as a war started by Russia. 

It was then in February 2022 news broke that Russia had officially started invading Ukraine, and all around the US people were watching the news and checking in on their phones to read updates about it. Now it’s early May, and the Ukraine conflict with Russia is still very prevalent, and many are still losing their lives and homes. 

Russia started the attack after they caught wind of Ukraine putting in efforts to seek extra protection trying to gain membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although Ukraine was much smaller in size and had a much smaller military presence, Russia declared them a threat and used aerial attacks to their advantage. 

Ukraine had nothing to defend itself after it destroyed all of its nuclear weapons when it partook in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  

Zvir had hoped that it wouldn’t last long after claims that Russia would overtake Ukraine’s capital in three days’ time. 

Anastasiya personally never felt the desire to leave her home country but she and her family felt a calling to do whatever they needed to do to help the efforts for the good of Ukraine. (Submitted by Anastasiya Zvir )

Bombings came from every direction in February 2022, and Zvir recalled that Ukraine never knew the next move or where it was going to come from next. 

Although the death toll has not been collected due to the fighting, it has been said that 7 million Ukrainians have been displaced and many are taking shelter outside the country in places like the U.S or in the homes of other Ukrainians.

Zvir personally never felt the desire to leave her home country but she and her family felt a calling to do whatever they needed to do to help the efforts for the good of their country. 

She said that her dad immediately went out and joined the Ukrainian army that was quickly building from the time of November 2021. Zvir admitted that she herself had the interest in potentially joining the military efforts in the role of either a soldier or even a paramedic especially due to her skill of learning and catching on to things pretty fast. That skill came in handy outside the battlefield in a volunteering center where she helped out with receiving tons of donations and sorting out medications and supplies needed for many people in need. 

Her brother, 17 at the time, had the same desire to join the military efforts but was turned down for drafting.

“Thank God they didn’t take him, they said you’re still a kid — enjoy the last of childhood,” Zvir said. 

Her family has also taken in a couple of other Ukrainian families that lost their homes due to the attacks and some have even got back on their feet she says. 

Although Zvir says she is in no immediate danger at this moment in time, she made it clear that the danger isn’t over for many Ukrainians and they still need the world’s support. 

Mental health is drastically declining she says as war tends to do and many Ukrainians including herself have become numb to the pain and suffering they have endured. 

“I don’t cry anymore. I’m afraid that I have become emotionless,” Zvir claimed. 

She recalled when her roommate came home to the dorm crying about someone she had just lost to the war. 

Zvir has heard of this millions of times, but was at a loss of what to say when it was someone close to her who had lost a special somebody. 

“(It was) hard to realize that I became resistant, because I heard so many tragic stories about death, and loss,” Zvir said. 

Zvir urges everybody to do what they can to support Ukraine, even something as simple as hosting a non-perishable canned food drive for soldiers. 

Many people from around the world came running to Ukraine to help whever needed. This is the group that Anastasiya worked with at the warehouse. (Submitted by Anastasiya Zvir)

She says don’t stop posting on social media or asking questions of Ukrainian people. She suggested even going as far as starting an initiative to work hand in hand with Ukrainian organizations.

Zvir is actively trying to create a new normal for herself and is trying to balance her ever-growing schedule of volunteering initiatives and schoolwork all at the same time. Although she was preparing for the day the Russians would attack early in 2022, she never knows when the sirens may go off and she will have to run to the safety of a bomb shelter. 

In fact, sirens still go off daily, sometimes even multiple times a day, Zvir saying that the air raid sirens at night are the worst. 

“They usually last much longer (from 2 to 6 hours) and create huge psychological pressure.” The sirens are meant to warn citizens that there is an immediate danger to their lives. “Every time when there is a missile launched in the direction of a certain city, citizens are notified and have approximately 5 minutes to go to the bomb shelter,” Zvir said. 

There aren’t many bomb shelters available for citizens so many resorts to hiding in basements and cellars. 

Zvir says she is blessed in having a bomb shelter at her college where students can take their backpacks and continue their work with the stable internet provided. 

It is important to keep in mind that this conflict is still as prevalent as ever and Ukraine still needs the support of the world in order to conquer the catastrophic harm Russia is causing.

This story was originally published on LHStoday on May 10, 2022.