I have been in Ukraine all but 11 weeks since March 2022, most of it volunteering for K9 Rescue International. I’ve rescued and evacuated animals. Brought food to the hungry. Traveled through zones of conflict with Russian rockets and artillery overhead. It seems like home, almost, except for the fact I still can barely communicate in Ukrainian without my translator. I have a house I call home in Kharkiv. I’ve made friends that seem like family. A cat adopted me. I still miss my real home and will be returning to Lakebay mid-June with the cat I named Bob.
I’ve witnessed dramatic changes since the war began. There are some distinct indicators that the national attitude toward the outcome of the war is positive. The McDonald’s factor is one.
At the onset of the war, McDonald’s closed every restaurant in Ukraine, donated all of its food to the military and, get this, continued to pay every employee their full wage as the war raged on. Now McDonald’s restaurants are beginning to re-open across Ukraine. Cars wrap around several blocks for the drive through. Lines of people flow out the doors for 100 yards. Every table is full.
Car dealerships are putting cars back in showrooms. Even in Kharkiv. Checkpoints are being dismantled. People are in a better state of mind. More smiling. I hope it lasts. The war is far from over, but it isn’t as bleak as it once was. Warm weather helps. Watching the people plant their gardens and paint their homes and concrete fences is reassuring. There are still missile attacks. There are still civilians being killed by Russians. There still is hope that this will end soon with the Russians being defeated and expelled from within the borders of Ukraine.
Slava Ukraini! I’m coming home with Bob!
Tom Bates, Lakebay
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