Slava Ukraini: How the Titarenkos Are Being Affected by the Ukrainian Humanitarian Crisis

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has impacted people all over the world. One family in the North Liberty, Iowa community has been directly impacted, and is hoping to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis.


Courtesy of Pixabay.

Image of the Ukrainian flag bearing a dove to represent peace in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has led to millions of Ukrainian refugees seeking asylum from the mounting humanitarian crisis. Ukrainian cities have been destroyed, families have been separated and fractured, and the civilian fatality count is rising daily. The invasion comes as a result of Russia’s President Putin’s desire to once again control the territory, and to take away the independence Ukraine proclaimed from the former Soviet Union on August 24, 1991. This invasion is the largest threat of diplomacy that Europe has encountered since World War II. 

This crisis has impacted people globally in a multitude of ways, but one family in the heart of our community has a personal connection to the escalating humanitarian crisis. 

Konstantin Titarenko, sophomore, is a first generation American. He is the child of a Ukrainian immigrant and a Russian immigrant; his father and stepmother are from Ukraine, and his mother is from Russia. 

When asked if he had any family members currently residing in Ukraine he responded, “I have my step mom’s mom and my step mom’s brother there currently. Her brother is in the army as an artilleryman, and her mom refuses to leave [Ukraine] because he’s there.” 

His father currently has friends living in Ukraine, and he has tried to keep in communication with them throughout the crisis.

“I know my dad still has a whole bunch of friends living [in Ukraine]. Most of them have left and fled to Poland or other surrounding countries, but mainly Poland,” said Titarenko. 

His mom has been struggling with the idea of the war, and is disheartened to see two neighboring countries fighting each other. 

“My mom is from Russia, but this still has affected her. She has a couple of friends from Ukraine, and overall she’s not been having a good time. She’s not happy that two basically sister countries are fighting- that her homeland is attacking another homeland. She has been putting up flags, asking, even our school, if we could set up some sort of fund,” said Titarenko. “I have caught [my mom] crying a couple of times because of it […] My stepmom has been crying as well. She’s been incredibly stressed because her mom is there.”

Titarenko’s family has many close friends and family members in both countries affected by the war. 

“My dad was actually in Ukraine about two to three months before the beginning of the war. He saw friends and family there before the war started, and he’s hoping that they ran, which I’m pretty sure most of them have. We have gotten videos from them of explosions happening in Lutsk, a city in Western Ukraine, which is pretty close to where they live.”

Image of the aftermath of a russian missile attack in Kyiv- Ukraine’s capital. (Oleksandr Ratushniak)

On his mom’s side, Konstantin’s aunt currently resides in Russia.

“I do know family [in Russia too]. For example, I have a pretty good relationship with a cousin in Russia currently. He used to come over here to America every year,” said Titarenko. “Of course there are some people, even some of my family who are in Russia right now that do believe in the cause of Russia attacking Ukraine. For example, my mom’s sister, my aunt, is kind of, as far as we know, in support of what Putin’s doing,” Titarenko mentioned. 

The Titarenko family has been trying to support Ukraine however they can. 

“Overall they have been sending lots of stuff over, hundreds of dollars of their own money, and have made a couple of facebook posts trying to raise money as well as sending first aid kits and such over to Ukraine and hoping that it will help,” commented Titarenko. 

The effects of the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis stretch further than his parents. Konstantin himself has been deeply affected by the crisis. 

“I am from both of the countries, one of which is attacking the other. So I don’t like what’s happening. I am very clearly on the side of Ukraine, as I have a bow and I used to have an armband that fell off [he indicated the blue and yellow bow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, pinned to his shirt in solidarity].”

Titarenko participated in two rallies/marches to help demonstrate his support for Ukraine, and additionally is working to spread awareness of the humanitarian crisis currently taking place overseas. 

Image from the Titarenko’s at the capital in Des Moines, Iowa, rallying in support of Ukraine. (Konstantin Titarenko)

“I have been to several Ukrainian rallies- one in downtown Iowa City near the old capital, and one in Des Moines at the actual capital. It’s very uplifting to see so many people come out and support the cause. It’s nice to see, and I am very glad that a lot of us believe in Ukraine compared to Russia.”

Although Konstantin has never visited Ukraine or Russia, he feels closely connected to both territories and cultures. 

“From what I have heard from my dad, Ukraine is a beautiful country. It has very rich culture, and it is actually one of the oldest countries to have ever existed. Kyiv is one of the oldest cities in the world, and it itself has created even the country of Russia. The people there get along very well. There are tons of monuments there, and they have done surprisingly well since the fall of the Soviet Union. Even though they are still fairly poor over there, the standard of living has been rising, overall it’s a good country.”

Titarenko believes that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky should be accredited with Ukraine’s strength and resilience throughout this conflict. 

“I like Zelensky. He is a good leader. He doesn’t blame the people of Russia, he blames Putin himself. I really think that it is heroic for him to stay in the country, and ask for ammunition and not a ‘ride’ as the famous quote goes. Overall, he’s doing well and asking for help from other countries who are helping. He is very proud of his people. He is very proud of the Ukrainians who are staying and fighting. The rest of the world would not have thought that Ukraine would stand a chance for as long as they have, so it means so much,” said Titarenko. “About Zelensky asking fathers and sons to stay and fight, even though it’s not the nicest thing to think about, it’s mandatory. It’s needed. Without certain people, without a lot of people, then the country would fall and that isn’t good for anyone. A lot of those people would rather run away as many people already have.”

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.

— Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, in Response to the U.S.'s Offer of an Evacuation

Many Western countries have been faced with the challenge of how to help Ukraine. President Zelensky has asked NATO to intervene in different ways, one of which would be implementing a “no-fly zone”. A “no-fly zone” would require NATO to be patrolling the skies and attacking any potential enemy aircraft. The concern with this proposal is that Russia could see this as a direct attack by Western nations against their country, and that it would only escalate the war. 

When asked whether or not he believed the U.S. and NATO Allies should be doing more to aid Ukraine, Konstantin responded: “No. I know it’s not exactly the most popular answer, but I believe that we are doing as much as we can as the Western Nations. Any more that we would do would only cause Russia’s actions to escalate. They will become angrier, and Putin might ramp up his attack with nuclear weaponry, which is something we all do not want. If we do any more, send direct troops for example, then Russia will see it as an attack against them specifically by Western nations. This could lead to a world war. What we are doing now by sending support and weaponry, food, first aid kits, all of that- that is a good standing that I think we should not go any further into. Even though Ukraine might be lost, even though it’s hard for me to say, I think it’s better for one country to be lost than the entire world.”

One thing that Titarenko wants Liberty students to take away from this issue is that the conflict is essentially one sided.

“It’s not the Russian people. It’s Putin himself. One person started all this. Don’t blame the people. Blame the one person.”

It’s not the Russian people. It’s Putin himself. One person started all this. Don’t blame the people. Blame the one person.

— Konstantin Titarenko

When asked what students at Liberty can do to aid Ukraine, he said: “If we can get some sort of donation fund set up, then [students] could donate to that […] this would be the best course of action. There are some websites and organizations that you can donate to, send food to [as well].”

Titarenko wants students at Liberty, and people all over, to support Ukraine during this crisis. He is holding on to hope that Ukraine will persevere, and that his loved ones will stay safe. 

“Hopefully this war can end soon without very much, or any more, conflict. It hopefully won’t get to a nuclear weapon point. I really hope everyone’s families are safe, I hope my family is safe, I hope my dad’s friends are safe there, and overall it’s a terrible thing that’s happening.”

If you are willing and able to donate, there are many organizations that are aiding Ukrainian citizens/refugees. UNICEF is an organization that is focused on aiding those affected by humanitarian crises, and helps children and their families have access to food, shelter, and other necessities. World Central Kitchen is another organization that is dedicated to helping those impacted by disasters to have access to meals. If you wish to donate through the PayPal app for convenience, here is a link for the World Central Kitchen’s PayPal. Donations big or small can help Ukrainians to have access to essential supplies, shelter, and in turn, can help to lower the fatality rate. 


Slava Ukraini! In English: Glory to Ukraine!

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