‘Everyone’s Left Us’: Young Ukrainians Say the World Has Abandoned Them

Young people in Ukraine speak to VICE World News about the reality of life during Russia's invasion.
A woman carries her cat near a railway station in Kyiv. Photo: Daniel LEAL / AFP
A woman carries her cat near a railway station in Kyiv. Photo: Daniel LEAL / AFP

Ukrainians have expressed anger at the West for lack of support as thousands flee their homes as Russia attacked the country with missiles and tanks rolled through suburbs of the capital Kyiv. 

On Thursday morning, Russia launched a full-scale military attack on neighbouring Ukraine, landing strikes in major cities and moving tanks into the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that 137 Ukrainians died on Thursday, with more casualties expected. 

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As Ukrainians adjust to this new reality, many feel betrayed by the West.

“We are on the road now out of Kyiv,” Yana Borodina, 25, told VICE World News. “We are in shock because the world is silent. Everyone has just left us.”

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Yana Borodina. Photo: Supplied

“This is shocking!” she said. “Being alone with an enemy – all of the world is threatened. Russia is huge. They will grab our independence if everyone sits at home.”

A month ago, Borodina told VICE World News that she didn’t want to believe an attack was possible on Ukraine, but the situation is much changed. 

Yulia Romanets, 28, who is trying to leave the country for Berlin but is struggling to find a safe passage via Poland, says the economic sanctions aren’t working. “I’m scared as fuck,” she said. “It would be nice if NATO helped. I don’t know how economic sanctions influence, because Russia is still invading.”

Western counties like the UK and the US have introduced certain economic sanctions such as freezing assets of Russian banks and imposing travel bans for high-profile Russian figures. Many Ukrainians, however, are asking for more, such as a ban on Russian SWIFT payments – a way for banks to make payments across borders – in order to financially penalise the country further. 

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Oleksii Sobolev, 38, has left Kyiv with his family. “I don’t understand. There’s a war in the biggest country in Europe, and it’s clear if we don’t stop Putin, then Baltic countries will be next,” he told VICE World News. “So with all that, why aren’t we receiving all the support we could get?”

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Oleksii Sobolev. Photo: Supplied

While countries have introduced economic sanctions, many are resistant to sending military support to Ukraine in order to avoid intervening and expanding the military attacks.

“So you don’t want to send troops, so don’t send troops, [but] send weapons, anti-air systems, drones, et cetera,” said Sobolev. “We have enough trained troops, we'll do it by ourselves. But [NATO troops] would stop this bloodshed much quicker and with fewer casualties.”

“Currently, it feels that additional help will come when there is more suffering from our side,” he said. “The situation is already dire – there is no need to wait.”