“One person adding their voice really does matter”: Senior Dymytri Hayda reflects on Ukrainian heritage, Russian invasion of Ukraine

Tommy Pettinger and Brian Ngo

On February 24, 2022, after years of tension and contained skirmishes, Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into the sovereign country of Ukraine. The invasion has shaken the world, causing mass destruction and death throughout Ukraine and a never before seen unification of countries against Putin’s incursion.

Here at DePaul College Prep, senior Dymytri Hayda, a second generation Ukrainian-American student, sat down with us to give Ukrainian-Americans a voice at our school.

Dymytri has lived in Chicago his entire life and spent many weekends in his adolescence attending Saturday school to learn about his Ukrainian heritage and culture. Dymytri has visited Ukraine multiple times and said that it was “very nice experiencing a culture that you’ve only read about on paper.” For Dymytri, Ukraine “stopped being theoretical” when he first traveled there and saw “people living that life.”

It was a life he had always lived from afar, but the distance didn’t change Dymytri’s thoughts and beliefs when the invasion began. Ukraine has been subjugated to Russian advances and brutality far longer than this most recent invasion, and Dymytri was saddened that it took this long for people to start paying attention and taking action.

Across the world, nations have finally begun taking action, unleashing economic sanctions on Russia that have crippled their economy. However, as Dymytri said, “it hasn’t culminated into anything too meaningful.” And he’s right. So much more can be done. As Dymytri said, one civilian death “is too much; hundreds is a tragedy.” Dymytri argued for harsher sanctions that could cripple the Russian oligarchs financing this invasion.

As our conversation continued, Dymytri explained how being Ukrainian-American has given him a unique perspective on the current situation. The United States, similar to Ukraine, has also been in a “perpetual state of war” for many years, but that has never been a war that we truly felt here at home in America. For those living in Ukraine, the rise in conflicts starting in 2014 is felt everyday, and this constant sense of fighting and defending has given the Ukrainian people a passionate love and “radical appreciation” for their nation, Dymytri explained. It is a strong sense of patriotism that holds true in every Ukrainian’s heart, a sense so strong that many are willing to die for their country.

This fervent will to defend their homes is why they fight and, as Dymytri remarked, it is a rather different attitude than the one that many Americans hold towards war. The idea of fighting for one’s country and defending one’s country, while popular and common for some in the United States, is not a universal belief held by every American. The idea of going to fight for America, as compared to Ukraine, isn’t always seen as a necessary duty to protect our homeland’s existence.

While these ideals of patriotism are admirable and inspirational, it is still a tragedy that Ukrainains are being forced to fight to defend themselves. As outsiders, many of us may feel useless, wishing and wishing that we could do something to assist those in need. And we can. All of us. Dymytri said that support, in any shape, is greatly appreciated. Whether through donations or attending protests, “one person adding their voice really does matter.”