Two soldiers at an ATM in Ukraine Photo by Emmanuel Aronie

On the Ground in Ukraine

By Emmanuel Aronie Correspondent
March 10, 2023

Emmanuel Aronie, once Seth Aronie, is a former Concord resident, a 1964 graduate of CCHS and 1970 graduate of Amherst College who lives in Cherkassy, Ukraine. He recently gave us an inside view of daily life in the war-torn country.

Fate first brought me to Ukraine during a 25-day 1989 curiosity tour of the former Soviet Union. Later, I lived in Ukraine for most of 1992, 1995 and 1999.

For the last 30 years, I have visited almost every summer and winter, totalling over 50 times my passport has been stamped “Ukraine ” or “Ukr.” Today, I have been in Ukraine since Aug. 10, 2022, about seven months, currently living in Cherkassy, about 125 miles south of Kyiv, on the Dnieper River.

A tribute wall to fallen soldiers in Cherkassy, Ukraine
Photo by Emmanuel Aronie

Daily life here, aside from the almost daily air-raid alerts, is pretty normal. There is the constant presence of the military on the street, but it seems, they are mostly on leave, hanging out. Down in the center, near the Budinik Torgivli (basically, a two story mall), there are two familiar landmarks, a KFC and a McDonald’s, quite popular with the soldiers. Nearby is a Bankomat (ATM), where I photographed two soldier-buddies.

After one year of war I asked five students, all in their 20s, to tell me in one word or phrase how it’s been: Roman – “stressful”, Denis – “dynamic, but with difficulty and struggle”, Dima – “anxious”, Yulia-“emotional “ and Masha – “unusual and stressful.”

A poster reading “Occupier the Storm is Coming
Photo by Emmanuel Aronie

Two other 20-somethings, fresh from our Sunday English language movie club, went into detail and this was troubling. Both are young and smart. One of them works in IT. His pay is meager and he lives with his parents and helps them with rent. His own apartment is out of the question, though he wants one. 

The other has studied electrical engineering and energetics, how to keep a country’s lights on, lifts (elevators) running and allowing people to make a living. On weekends, he has been adding IT and English to his agenda. But, the war is changing all that. Good jobs are hard to find. A refugee from the Donetsk region, he and his parents are safely making it in Cherkassy. He says that the country had been doing better, but that the war, starting in 2014 and more visibly since February 2022, has made things much worse.

How do they feel about aid from all over the world? They are incredibly grateful, for the most part. And, the endgame? No one knows. But, after reading and listening to many experts and bloggers, absorbing a wealth of information, I predict the Russians will cave, give in. They are morally empty, and at some point, they will not be able to stand up to Ukraine and the Ukrainians’ courage, intelligence and intense moral fiber. Then, another process will start, reconstruction.