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'I am really very grateful that I am Ukrainian:' A UNH Law grad's view from Lviv

 Ivan Chaika asked Granite Staters to continue to support Ukraine and be open to being involved – especially regarding financial support.
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Ivan Chaika
Ivan Chaika asked Granite Staters to continue to support Ukraine and be open to being involved – especially regarding financial support.

In 2017, Ivan Chaika spoke at his graduation ceremony from UNH Law in Concord about how he hoped to help Ukrainians in their long fight against Russia.

Find a list of organizations collecting financial resources for Ukrainians here. The Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church is also currently accepting donations to send to Ukraine.

“I needed to help them,” he said, according to The Concord Monitor. “Because they need to think about protecting the country, not legal issues.” At that time, there was still a war in the eastern part of the country following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

But since Russian forces launched a full invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, it seems like helping has become Chaika's whole life. And as more horrific reports of civilian casualties come out of the country, he’s not leaving his city, Lviv, anytime soon. NHPR interviewed him via an exchange of voice memos.

“I will definitely not leave Ukraine,” he said. “I will take the gun and I will fight for the freedom of my people.” As the country has enacted martial law, it’s also true that most men are legally barred from leaving.

Chaika has not started fighting yet, but he’s preparing to join a local defense force. He said many of his male friends have joined the military bases or local defense forces or helped with local volunteering.

It didn’t have to be this way for Chaika. Earlier in the year, he was working in Sri Lanka with his professional colleagues. When reports of a potential invasion from Russia emerged, he could have stayed there, where it was safe. But even as he kept seeing that stressful news, he and his team returned.

“I am very grateful that everybody was thinking the same way,” he said. “I am really very grateful that I am Ukrainian. “

As of Friday, Russian forces haven’t attacked Lviv, but the city has been inundated with refugees. Housing for the influx of people is starting to become a problem. Chaika is hosting one refugee from Kyiv in his apartment. Because his place is small, Chaika is sleeping on the floor. His parents are hosting six refugees from the city of Kharkiv. Chaika said he’s also limited his expenses so he can contribute financially to the war effort.

Chaika said the first reports of the shooting and killing related to the invasion caused panic, but as the days have gone on, he and his family have become calmer, concentrating on how they can be united and help the country during the war Russia started.

He knew something had changed when he went to his parents’ home after the war started. While he was taking a walk, he was stopped by Ukrainian police with rifles. The police went through his documents and computers – because, he said, people in western Ukraine have started to be concerned about spies.

When asked what he wanted people in New Hampshire to know about the crisis, he said financial support to fight the humanitarian crisis was one of the main things people could do to help. He also asked Granite Staters to boycott Russian products and to halt their business in Russia. And he said the country needs more medical kits and military gear, like helmets, as the military continues to take in volunteers.

“Ukraine right now is standing up front and trying to protect democratic values,” he said.

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Christina Phillips and Peter Biello contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

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