As Russia launches a full-scale invasion on Ukraine, people are left helpless and in fear of not receiving a response from their loved ones on the other end of the line.
As Russia begins a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian nationals in Qatar have told Doha News that they are hesitant to open social media—their source of information on ground aside from their families—as the latest events have left them feeling helpless and fearful.
Described as the “biggest attack” by a state against another in Europe since World War Two, the Russian invasion of Ukraine this Thursday started with explosions in the capital Kyiv, followed by alarming sirens which sent shivers down the spines of residents.
The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in a tweet, “Russia treacherously attacked our state […] as Nazi Germany did in World War 2. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history.”
Alona Wieser, a Ukrainian national in Qatar, tells Doha News, “I was telling my family one month ago to leave everything and move out of Ukraine. They were telling me that they are not able to simply drop everything and leave their jobs.”
After they had planned on travelling to Georgia on 26th February, Alona’s family are now stuck behind Ukrainian borders as the government closed the airport, imposing martial law across the entire country.
“My father called me [on Thursday morning] saying that they can hear the shooting and the bombs,” Alona said. “He said that their family all warned that the Russians are moving towards my side of the city. I don’t know what’s going to happen today,” she added.
Various Ukrainian nationals have told Doha News that people are being provided only with basic information on the situation occurring outside their doors, as the country’s government limits access to media outlets in an attempt to ease the panic overwhelming the Ukrainian street.
Alona expressed her fear over texting her family with the knowledge that she cannot guarantee a reply back. “For now they don’t have water. They closed the water to save the phone because maybe the electricity will not work as well so we won’t have a connection. In any case, they will text me when they can, but maybe they cannot even text me and that’s scary.”
According to Reuters, Ukraine has called on its citizens to defend their country, saying “arms would be given to anyone prepared to fight.” Alona expressed her fears over potentials of conscription saying, “[The government] discussed taking men for the army from ages 18 to 60 and my father is younger than 60. So I’m very scared about that.”
The invasion has driven residents into survival mode, as they flood supermarkets and ATM machines to retrieve their necessities and attempt to find ways to cope with the sudden war imposed upon them.
Another Ukrainian national in Qatar, Daria, tells Doha News about the Russian forces destroying military stations in Ukraine, saying “near my city [Uman] there is a big military station and it’s already destroyed. We don’t have a safe place in our country.”
Daria went on to speak about her family in the country, saying “My mother told me she went out today and heard terrifying explosions near our house. The people are trying to move out of the city but there is massive traffic”.
“In Kiev they already blocked the city and people couldn’t go outside. People don’t know what to do,” she added.
Not expecting to wake up to an unfortunate life-changing shift of events, Katarina Grushko picked up her phone on Thursday morning to realise her family at home are in a state of danger. She began the day by opening her Instagram account to many messages from friends and clients asking her about herself and her family.
She told Doha News that for she was in a state of shock for several minutes as the reality of the situation slowly began seeping in.
“My hands started shaking,” Katarina said—upon witnessing videos of dead people laying around in her home; a place which provided her a sense of belonging is now being raided by intruders.
Planning to book a flight to Ukraine during the month of Ramadan, Katarina is now confronted with the violent waves of military invasion. Still struggling to internalise the situation, she said, “In one night your entire life changes. Your story changes. You cannot do anything and there is one country crushing your land and your hopes.”
“I am afraid to open the news in the morning. Today is Friday and it is my only day off with my husband but neither of us can rest,” she added.
Katarina says that she has been criticised for living away from her country for six years, but her connection to her homeland remains tight, as she says, “this does not change the fact that whenever [I] lands in Ukraine my heart beats like crazy.”
“No matter what happens my family will be there and they will fight for their homes and fight for the land,” she noted.
Katarina further expressed her gratitude for the Qataris support Ukrainians during these tough times, and has requested for the people in Qatar “to pray for Ukrainians this Friday,” as it is considered a sacred day of worship for Muslims.
Alongside dozens of other Qatar-based Ukrainians, Katarina participated in a show of solidarity on Friday morning outside the Ukrainian embassy in Doha, wherein the Ukrainian community stood and sang the national anthem, providing each other with support as they watch the events in unfold in the country from afar.
Qatar’s efforts amid Russian escalations in Ukraine
The Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani received a phone call Thursday morning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where the latter briefed the Amir on the latest developments in Ukraine.
The Amir called on all parties to “exercise restraint and resolve the dispute through constructive dialogue and diplomatic methods.”
He also reiterated the need to place the humanitarian situation of Ukrainian civilians as a “top priority and to ensure their safety.”
The Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in phone calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, also stressed the need to abstain from threat and the use of force whilst adhering to the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states.”