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“I believe in our defenders more than in God”: Why this Ukrainian family plans to stay in place

Just outside of Odesa, the family has prepared a hunting rifle and will wait.

Kateryna Razan, left, with her brother, nephew, and sister-in-law at her nephew’s first birthday party near Odesa, Ukraine, in late 2021.
Courtesy of Kateryna Razan
Fabiola Cineas covers race and policy as a reporter for Vox. Before that, she was an editor and writer at Philadelphia magazine, where she covered business, tech, and the local economy.

When I reached out to Kateryna Razan online, she had already posted countless Instagram stories with links to resources that could aid Ukrainians as Russia began its invasion.

By Thursday afternoon, local time, Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched what the Ukrainian foreign minister called a “full-scale invasion,” sending more than 100 missiles into Ukraine that killed at least 137 Ukrainians. The southern port city of Odesa, the country’s third largest and where Razan lives, was one site of clashes and where Russian troops touched ground via the Black Sea.

Though an estimated 100,000 or more Ukranians have fled the country so far, with many from Odesa heading west to Moldova, Razan told me that she and her family are staying put for as long as possible. Their determination to remain in Ukraine is a matter of faith in their country, Razan told me, and a bid to defy Putin. “The last few months have been a nightmare. We’ve been paralyzed with horror and fear,” Razan said.

Here is Kateryna in her own words, as told to Vox.

I’m 25 years old, and in 1.5 weeks it’ll be my birthday. I planned to go to Kyiv for a concert, and now it’s on fire.

I was born and raised in the Odesa region, not the city itself — though I live in Odesa now — and work as a sales manager in an IT company. Before Russia invaded yesterday, I worked, went to cafes and cinemas, went to the gym, went out with friends, visited my parents, made plans and dreamed. A few days ago, I went to visit my parents who live in a village 40 kilometers near Odessa. The war started while I was here. All I know and see is from the news and friends who are in Odesa.

Yesterday, I woke up to a call from a friend who told me about the blasts. What we feared finally happened: Russia launched a full-scale war in my country. Can you imagine it? Just yesterday you were trying to live your normal life, making plans, and today you wake up at 5 in the morning from explosions and don’t know if tomorrow will come. There are explosions in every city of Ukraine. Civilians are dying. And why? Simply because we’re unlucky enough to live next door to the largest country in the world, which started wars in many countries for no reason.

Now I am at home with my parents. My brother and his family also live nearby. My dad is fussing and trying to make some preparations. He has prepared a hunting rifle. My mother is not feeling very well. We watch the news nonstop. Trying to do something from our “normal” life is simply ridiculous and unsuccessful. You just physically cannot stop watching the news. I still can’t believe this is happening, that this isn’t a bad dream. That life will never be the same again.

People trying to leave Ukraine crowd by the ticket offices at the railway station in Odesa, Ukraine, on February 24.
Nina Liashonok/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

We’re not going anywhere. This is our home. I am sure our army will stand and win. Otherwise it cannot be. The only condition for us to leave is occupation by Russian troops. In the past few months I did believe that Russia would invade our country, but I didn’t think they would strike all over Ukraine. We have been preparing for this for the past weeks (if we can prepare for this at all) and have gathered supplies of food, water, and other necessary stuff. We donated to our army. In case of air attacks, we are ready to go to shelter.

Right now it seems like the rest of the world thinks it’s only our war or that Putin will stop. This is a war for the whole of Europe, and in fact, now we alone are defending ourselves and the whole of Europe. Seriously, the entire civilized world is watching us get killed. The capital of a European country is under attack, and they can’t turn off fucking SWIFT. They can’t close the sky over Ukraine. Unbelievable.

I do fear that evil will win. My little nephew is just over 1 year old. My biggest fear is that his first memory will be explosions and war.

But of course, I do have faith. Ukraine is an incredibly peaceful yet brave nation. All we wanted and want is peace and to go our own way. We’ve always been able to unite and now, when our lives are under threat and the country is on fire, we are united like never before. Yes, thanks to Russia for that; I don’t think they expected this. I believe in our defenders more than in God. When we win, I won’t spend a single euro in Germany. Traitors.

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