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Opinion: As an American in Kyiv, I'm proud of how much we helped Ukraine and scared we may let it down

July 4, 2024 11:41 PM 4 min read
A young woman wrapped in the Ukrainian national flag walks next to the burnt Russian military vehicles in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 24, 2022. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)
July 4, 2024 11:41 PM 4 min read
Anna Belokur
Anna Belokur
Social Media Manager
This audio is created with AI assistance

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If you speak English on the street in Ukraine, it’s not uncommon for strangers to stop and ask where you’re from. Many times when I’ve said I’m American, people (ranging from teenagers to the elderly) have thanked me for my country’s help.

I’m forever grateful to be a U.S. citizen, and proud to be from the same place as the incredible American soldiers, medics, journalists, and humanitarians I have the privilege to work alongside. I go to bed every night confident that I’ll wake up in the morning because the sky above Kyiv is protected by U.S.-supplied air defense. In the 11 months since I moved back to Ukraine, I’ve developed a new appreciation for both the life-saving power of America’s resources and our cultural dedication to justice and freedom.

However, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn is how well our politicians are able to weaponize our fatigue and turn it into apathy at best, and conspiracy at worst. I think back to learning about Hitler in school, and how we all swore that if we were alive in the 1940s, we’d be the ones who recognized evil and worked to stop it. And yet there is currently a dictator committing genocide in Europe with the aim of expanding his country’s borders indefinitely, and our top presidential candidate is indicating that his strategy for stopping it is to hand Vladimir Putin what he wants.

Putin has said that he’ll stop the war if Moscow is allowed to annex four Ukrainian oblasts (states) – a particularly shocking demand, given that few of these areas are fully occupied.

This is like if Cuba took control of Key West, killed and raped Floridians en masse, flattened every city up to Tampa, and our solution was to hand over the entire state. If Russia stops attacking Ukraine, the war will end. If Ukraine stops defending itself, it won’t exist, and neither will the world as we know it.

To my fellow Americans: I’m writing to you on July 4 from Kyiv during one of the few hours of electricity we get these days thanks to Russia striking the power grid, where fireworks are banned because there are enough explosions to contend with.

I’m not here to tell you what or who to vote for this fall – I’m not you, and I know that both options are concerning in their own right. The only thing that I ask is that you believe me when I say that the greatest threat to America’s safety, freedom, and future is Russia. The only thing protecting us is Ukraine, the only thing that will enable Ukrainian victory is military aid, and in no way does Ukraine take this fact for granted.

When you vote, please know that your tax dollars don’t go to President Volodymyr Zelensky – they go to the American manufacturers who make the ammunition that goes into the guns held by Ukrainian husbands, brothers, and sons who don’t want to die in this war. If Donald Trump signs away Ukraine, tens of thousands will have died for nothing, and thousands more will be next – and not just in Ukraine.

I’m not being hyperbolic or doom-mongering here: as someone who has been reporting on Russia and Ukraine for years, right now I’m more afraid for the future than I’ve ever been.

If you’re reading this from America, I hope that you never hear the sound of an air raid siren. I hope that the people you love are never mobilized for military service that has no end date. I hope that you never learn just how much a human brain can become accustomed to, to the point where the neighborhood hit by a missile at 8 a.m. is forgotten by lunchtime. I hope that you never let a billionaire convince you that you don’t need to be worried about the massive black cloud moving straight toward you.

Happy 4th. I love America and I know that we can do the right thing. My biggest fear is that we’ll simply choose not to, and the consequences will follow us for generations to come.

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