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Fighting for what they've built
A running catalog of courage and heroism in Ukraine
Me and my dad on 1st day of 1st grade; Odessa, Ukraine; September 1, 1992
I’ve never been one to identify strongly with groups of people just based on shared demographics. But this week, I’ve been proud to call myself a native of Ukraine.
As I have no expertise in global politics, there’s nothing substantive I can say about the crisis that won’t be better articulated elsewhere. Instead, I’d like to share my own running catalog of the inspiring stories of human courage, integrity, and enterprise that have emerged from it.
These are the stories of brave Ukrainian soldiers and civilians defending their freedom in the distinct manner of builders: not by stoically resigning themselves to oppression, or dutifully carrying out a drill sergeant’s orders, but by throwing themselves fiercely, proudly, methodically between the invader’s wrecking ball and the home and life they’ve worked so hard to build.
And these are the stories of their fellow builders worldwide who’ve lent their own ingenuity and resourcefulness to the cause.
Note: I’ve done my best to verify the authenticity of each source, but please feel free to cross-check me given how much misinformation has been circulating on the internet. And please write or leave a comment with any suggested additions to this list!
Ukrainian citizens bravely defending Ukraine
“Heroes of Ukraine: Bravery on full display as they fight back against Russia” (New York Post, 2/28/22)
“Volunteer fighters armed with assault rifles patrolled central Kyiv on Friday, ready to defend their country” (New York Times, 2/25/22). Worth watching all the way through.
Hlib Bondarenko, computer programmer: “I’m just a regular civilian, I have basically nothing to do with war… I wouldn’t really want to participate in anything like this, but… I don’t really have any choice, because this is my home.”
Olena Sokolan, business manager: “When I heard the explosions, I decided that I’m ready. I am an adult woman, I’m healthy, and it’s my responsibility.”
“Stiff Ukrainian resistance continues to hamper Russian troops” (CNN, 2/26/22)—with image of volunteers weaving camouflage nets:
“Ukrainian woman shows CNN reporter her makeshift Molotov cocktails” (and other stories).
CNN reporter: “How did you learn to make Molotov cocktails?”
Raisa Smatko, retired economist and grandmother: “I Googled it.”
“Russian warship, go fuck yourself”: what the border guards defending Snake Island told an invading Russian warship. Latest here from CNN.
“In a hospital basement in Kyiv, medics work through the shelling” (The Economist, 3/3/22).
“Yet, to a surprising extent, the hospital is still working – much like Ukraine itself.”
Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky leading with moral clarity and courage
“Zelensky receives standing ovation after European parliament address” (NBC News). “Every square, in every corner of our country, is going to be called Freedom Square. Nobody is going to break us.”
“I admire you Ukraine. The whole world admires you, from Hollywood stars to politicians. Today, you Ukrainians are the symbol of invincibility.”
“Not afraid of anyone” (from The Guardian, 3/1/22):
A fitting tribute to “Captain Ukraine”:
Tech builders lending support to Ukraine
Twitter exchange in which Elon Musk responds—within 12 hours—to Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov’s personal plea that he provide Starlink (SpaceX’s new satellite internet service) to the people of Ukraine:
48 hours later, Fedorov confirms the Starlink shipment’s arrival:
“As Tanks Rolled Into Ukraine, So Did Malware. Then Microsoft Entered the War” (New York Times, 2/28/22)
“Underground U.S. groups funnel fighters, medics to Ukraine” (Reuters, 3/4/22).
“Speaking on his Telegram page, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday said 16,000 foreigners have volunteered to fight for Ukraine against Russia's invasion. Ukraine has formed an ‘international legion’ for the foreign force.”
“Canadian tech entrepreneur Vish Vadlamani considered fighting then decided he could be more useful sponsoring volunteers and using his software programming skills to help refugees. He said he and associates have raised about $20,000 in unused airline credit to cover airfares for volunteers.”
“An American has created a 32-page Google document with information ranging from how to enlist in the Ukrainian army to an alphabetical packing list that starts with baby wipes and body armor.”
This overlaps and almost transcends categories, as it’s a case of Ukrainian builders innovating to support the rebuilding of Ukraine: