A few months after the war in Ukraine started, I reached out to my coworker, Lidiya Gettya. She and I both teach online courses for mostly homeschooled students, and we came about our jobs in the same way: through homeschooling our own children. One of Lidiya’s children is a competitive swimmer and the other is a diver. In a version of what homeschoolers call worldschooling, the family spent a year recently in Kyiv, solidifying her children’s language skills, before returning to the U.S. before the war.
If Lidiya’s life was extraordinary in an ordinary way before the war, it took a sharp turn once the country of her birth was threatened with annihilation. In the beginning of this program, I speak with Lidiya about how her all-American online shopping abilities were put to the test when she found out that Ukrainian soldiers needed the most basic things, like fungal cream. Soon she was doing the stairs in her Kansas house wearing bulletproof gear—just to test out what it would be like to be a soldier. You’ll hear all about it in the first half of this program.
Meanwhile, Lidiya’s friend Victoria Kuchmuk was also having an ordinary life disrupted by war. She lives in Rozhyshche, a town in the west of Ukraine near the border with Belarus. She describes it as a cute little town—its Wikipedia page is literally one paragraph long. Her life was one that middle class Americans would recognize: working, hanging out with her family, going for hikes.
One of the aspects of this war that has interested me in particular is how so many Ukrainians have gone on with life as usual, not just because they can do that, but because they have to. Victoria spent the first months of the war going about her life at home and at work, but with a growing worry about her teen son, who had become withdrawn. Victoria explains that all of their planning was up in the air. It’s hard to think about adulthood, college, and career when young men are coming back to your village in coffins. That’s when Lidiya stepped in, and I won’t spoil the story by trying to tell the rest of it.
Lidiya and Victoria are, like the rest of us, just trying to live their lives. But the war in their country has heightened the importance of every decision they make, and has presented them with new, difficult choices. In the end, the distance between them ends up bringing them closer. Listen in!
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