On February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded Ukraine under orders from Vladimir Putin, thus beginning the most significant conflict in Europe since World War II, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and sparking the largest internal refugee crisis in almost a
century. Calamity and Mercy is the story of the aftermath.
This is the human voice of the conflict acting as a direct counterpoint to ethnic Nationalism and Russian propaganda used to
dehumanize their victims and justify naked aggression.
Featured interviews (so far) include
• Oelena: Fled the war in Ukraine with her son and dog in tow. After her long and uncertain journey through Slovakia, Germany and finally Holland, she finds a local family willing to open their home to them, the children of friends who remained in
Ukraine, as well as her husband planning to join when he can escape. From the tragedy blossoms a beautiful relationship of mutual growth and support despite the lack of a common language. Our interviews include Oelena, the host family, and their foster children.
• Svitlana: A Ukrainian writer who escaped shortly after the invasion began. Unable to believe war was imminent until the air and missile attacks rained down on Ukraine, she waited a terrifying 28 hours to cross into Poland, receiving help along her way from total strangers and fellow writers until she arrived in Amsterdam. She is currently writing a book about her exodus from Ukraine.
• Dutch/Russian family hosting Ukrainian refugees (A total of ten subjects.): Host mother is Russian immigrant who left Putin’s controlled Russia in protest. Her husband is of Dutch/Canadian descent. After extensive discussions on how they should respond to the invasion of Ukraine, they decided to host a family in their home. She also works as a translator for the refugees. She speaks candidly of how politics and the war have corrupted relationships between families and friends. She is overcome by fear but decided to fight the fear by acting to help refugees.
• Katja and Diana: Volunteer Humanitarian workers and translators, currently managing a collection and charity shop to support refugees. They assist people with official paperwork and other resident requirements, but their primary gift is lending strength to the refugees. Diana weeps as she describes remaining stoic as she hears their awful stories. Many times, she hides in the restroom to cry before returning to her work.
• Olga and Jan are a Ukrainian mother and son (5yo) from Kyiv: Olga worked as a corporate translator and yoga/fitness instructor before the war. Like Svitlana, both she and her husband couldn’t believe the war would happen. After Russian missiles and aircraft attacked the airport near their home, they argued over what to do. Olga wanted to stay while her husband urged her to leave. Olga refused until she saw rescue crews take a boy Jan’s age from the rubble of his home, murdered by Russian air strikes. Olga realized she would never forgive herself if Jan died in such a way. Her husband sent her away, knowing he could fight better if they were safe and alive. Parting at the blacked-out rain station was horrific. People moved in the shadows, and Olga had to touch her husband’s face in order to stay close. The trains came and went with no lights while they waited at the station as bombs rained down nearby. She gently explained their journey to Jan as a brand-new adventure going to see new places and new people, learning new things together. All Jan wanted to know is when he would see his father again.
• Lotta & Martin: Utrecht is one of the most important railway hubs in the Netherlands, a primary location for Ukrainian refugees escaping from the war. Lotta, the area manager for the International Red Cross reception center explained to us the Center’s procedures for receiving Ukrainian and other foreign migrants, and her current experiences compared to the war in Afghanistan. Martin, a Red Cross volunteer and grandfather of three, accompanied us to visit the welcome area as he explained why he volunteered to greet the exhausted, terrified refugees.
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