500 days of Ukrainian resilience
For 500 days, the Ukrainian people have endured threats of injury and death from Russia’s brazen aggression. Russia has ruthlessly attacked homes, schools, hospitals and shopping malls while trying to destroy cities and towns’ critical infrastructure. “As the Kremlin attempts to subjugate Ukraine, seize its land, topple its democratically elected government, the spirit of Ukraine’s people remains unbroken,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said July 8, marking the 500th day of Russia’s February 24, 2022, invasion.
With worldwide support, the people of Ukraine continue to defend and rebuild their country. They are living their lives in defiance of the Kremlin, showing determination and grace to live freely.“Each day, the people of Ukraine demonstrate their resilience and unity in defending against Moscow’s brutal, relentless assaults,” Blinken said. Here’s a sample of the remarkable stories of the Ukrainian people’s resistance to Russia’s aggression.
Fixing the power grid
The war has made heroes of everyday people in Ukraine, including energy workers. Due to their efforts, Ukraine’s energy system has emerged from the first winter after the full-scale invasion damaged but intact, despite constant attacks from Russia’s forces. “[Energy workers] feel that what we have faced so far only fortifies us and makes us stronger,” Tetiana Balybiuk, deputy director general for investment for Vinnytsia City Heating Energy, said earlier this year. The international community has pledged billions for Ukraine’s recovery, including efforts to overhaul the country’s energy grid and modernize its critical infrastructure.
Repairing roads and infrastructure
In many cases, Ukraine’s workers have already rebuilt bridges, roads and government buildings that Russia’s missiles and drones had struck. “Are we aware that what we have rebuilt could be destroyed again? Yes, but it is a risk that we’re forced to take,” Ukraine’s deputy minister of infrastructure, Oleksandra Azarkhina, told the Guardian. “And frankly speaking, rebuilding is also part of our resistance,” she said.
Tending to the injured
Russia has bombed hundreds of hospitals in Ukraine. In many cases, medical staff continued to treat patients, even after Russia’s military strikes severely damaged their facilities. Yuriy Kuznetsov, a trauma surgeon in Izyum, lived and performed surgeries in the hospital’s basement. “We were all terribly depressed from time to time,” he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “With every saved person, with every saved life, the confidence [of being right] to have stayed here. … We were convinced it was not all in vain.”
Plowing the fields
Meanwhile, an initiative brokered by Türkiye and the United Nations helps farmers in Ukraine ship through Russia’s blockage of the Black Sea to get their products delivered around the world. The U.N.’s Black Sea Grain Initiative has safely moved more than 32 million metric tons of Ukrainian agricultural goods since last July.
Teaching in makeshift classrooms
Oleksandr Pogoryelov is among many teachers who used to teach in classrooms. Then Russia’s forces destroyed his school, like thousands of others that Russia reduced to rubble. A dozen students then came to his home in the eastern Donetsk region. “A doctor has to treat patients, and a teacher has to teach children,” he told Euronews.
Russia’s war forced many Ukrainian students to study in shelters or other makeshift classrooms, like Pogoryelov’s home. But many have returned to classrooms. A UNICEF grant helped a secondary school in Velyki Mosty connect to the internet and keep the lights on, “so we can keep working,” says Iryna Pahutiak, the head of the school.
Delivering the mail
Volunteering to help
Since the beginning of the war, people young and old have looked for ways to do their part to protect their country and help the soldiers defending them on the front lines. Olena Grekova, who designed high-end fashion before the war, stepped in with other volunteers in Zaporizhzhya to make body armor vests for Ukrainian soldiers. “I feel I am needed here,” Grekova told the Associated Press.
And Tetiana Burianova, who organized parties and trips for young people before the war, today helps organize trips for Repair Together, a volunteer group that goes to small towns to help clean up and repair damage from Russia’s bombing.
“We are making a new Ukraine,” she told the Guardian.