By Darij Kulchyckj || Contributing Writer
What is anxiety? Probably a question most students at F&M could answer. But this feeling that I am feeling right now is unmatched. It’s something that I struggle to articulate simply because I have not experienced it before. This omnipresent “mega-anxiety” leaves me tired, scared, full of fear, and dreading an inevitable future.
Judging from my name, you may rightfully assume that I am not someone who is “from here.” My friends and I like to joke, (mimicking ignorant, rude people) by asking each other: “So, where are you from— like, where are you really from?” A question that is actually pretty deep when one thinks about it. Before I understood the concepts of citizenship and identity, I always told people that I am from Ukraine. As I grew up, people reminded me that I’m not actually from there, that I am American. I guess that’s true: I’m obliged to say “American”, because I was born in Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. So why do I gravitate towards identifying as Ukrainian? Over the course of my life, I’ve barely spent more than half a year in Ukraine and haven’t been back since I was twelve years old. I’m a first-generation American because my mother is from Ukraine and my dad, son of Ukrainian immigrants, was born in Philadelphia. So technically I am 1.5th-generation? Ukrainian was my first language and the only language I use to communicate with my family. These technicalities don’t mean all that much to me because as a 19-year-old I know who I am: Ukrainian-American.
On January 30th, I attended a rally in Philadelphia with another fellow Ukrainian student, Olha Shapovalenko ‘24, and protested for Ukrainian sovereignty and independence from Russia in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We walked for about 30 minutes from the train station in the 20℉ cold after arriving in Philly, and stood for about an hour and a half, listening and chanting to/with congressmen/women and leaders in this movement. We began by singing the U.S. national anthem, followed by the Ukrainian national anthem– symbolic and fitting to my identity. Afterward, I met up with some Ukrainian Diaspora friends and we went out to eat and catch up. Those who share this Ukrainian-American identity provide me with a community and understanding of what it is like to be in this current situation.
When I first began reflecting on my participation at the rally, I felt like I had not done enough. I don’t know how one rally is going to make a difference. In a time where hope is one of the few things that I can cling to, it’s something that I’m losing a lot of right now. My world seems to be crumbling and hope seems to be out of the picture.
Whoever reads this, I hope that you were able to better understand this omnipresent battle that I and millions of Ukrainians share. A battle to retain hope and suppress the tyranny that has been faced from Russia. I hope that things will get better through consistent action and representation, regardless of how big or small. I hope that I can go back and see my grandparents in their homeland. And simply – I hope that the freedom and democracy that we so often take for granted in this beautiful nation of the United States can blossom in the gorgeous nation where my heart dwells.
Sophomore Darij Kulchyckyj is a contributing writer. His email is email@example.com.