inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

POTAPOVA: A Letter From Ukraine

Dear Friend:

I’m sorry for the delay with the answer, just couldn’t collect myself and my thoughts after seeing the atrocious footage and death tolls from Bucha and other towns outside Kyiv that have been liberated by Ukrainian forces. The whole country is utterly shocked. We all are mourning the killed civilians up there and praying for the people in Mariupol and Donbas where they have heavy battles right now.

Despite the pain, I want to use every opportunity to talk to a foreign audience about the war crimes the russians (yes, that is correct, since the war started we here write the names of the aggressor country and its president in lowercase letters) commit on our land. I will try to share my thoughts on what it’s like to be in a country that is at war. For security reasons I don’t go into much detail when it comes to locations.

The picture that I’m attaching to this email was made by my daughter three months before the war. That day we saw a theatre show, ate some street food, and enjoyed the sun in the center of Kyiv. That day Kyiv was a peaceful place, probably the best one on Earth, I love this city so much. And I believe peace will be restored to it soon.

So, let’s do it. Sorry if the text comes unstructured, it is more of a free writing thing.

My name is Tanya, I’m 38, happily married, mother of two. Currently, I’m the communications lead in one of the top law firms in Ukraine. I live in Kyiv but a few days after russia invaded we made a decision to flee to a safer region. It has remained relatively safe up until now and I hope it will stay safe.

On Feb. 24 we woke up from a phone call. It was 7 a.m. The babysitter of our younger son called to ask whether she should come that day. I said yes and she asked, “Are you sure? Have you heard the news?” I immediately went online and the first headline was saying: “putin started a war.” Of course, there was fear then. There is fear now but it goes with an overwhelming feeling of the people’s unity, rage, and determination.

We have air sirens every day and especially at night. That is why we spend the nights in a shelter. It seems we took other things for luxury before, our new luxury is to have food and water, electricity and internet, to take a shower, go for a walk, play with kids. At least it is a luxury for now because every new day might change everything.

I was lucky not to experience shelling, rocket attacks, not to lose loved ones, to remain alive. But I know people who lost their homes because of bombs, their loved ones died in the shelling or were shot during evacuation.

Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel, Borodyanka, Kharkiv, Sumy – it’s heartbreaking to think of people there. Handcuffed, tortured, raped, burnt, starved, strangled, humiliated, blocked, deprived of their homes, killed by the obedient herd to satisfy the monstrous reincarnation of Stalin and Hitler in one.

What the russian troops have been doing are war crimes. And war criminals who gave and executed orders, crafted and promoted the propagandistic agenda for decades, and then publicly denied the atrocities done by their army, should and will be punished. This is why Ukraine will fight no matter how much time and effort it takes.

You know, I think Ukraine reinvents itself right now. We literally see the country shaking off the rudiments of the Soviet past–pro-russian political parties and propagandistic media, the language issue (many people I know who spoke russian before the war started using Ukrainian in their everyday life). It’s great to see a dignified and resilient nation in the making. The nation that undoubtedly will prevail.

Every single person I know contributes to the victory by helping the army, refugees, neighbors, animals, anyone in trouble. I stayed in Ukraine and decided to spend as much time with my kids as I can. Having an incredibly supportive employer, I continue working remotely, and this was another commitment – to get myself together and continue doing my job because a stable economy helps Ukraine to get closer to victory. I use every chance to spread the truth about the war across the world. And I donate: to the Ukrainian armed forces, to the widows of the killed, to refugee centers, to free Ukrainian media.

Growing up, making friends, falling in love, giving birth to kids, living, working, and traveling in Ukraine was fantastic before the russians came to try and take it all away. Since 1991, our country has been paving its way to the EU and NATO. We struggled with reforms. We voted in democratic elections. We fought for the right to choose our own path. It’s not that we haven’t made mistakes. We did, but who doesn’t when trying to emerge out of a communist past as a democracy?

Obviously, Ukraine became a pain in the ass for russia – no dictatorship likes free-minded neighboring countries. We didn’t obey and give up as they planned. We fight for our freedom and shield the freedom of Europe. The cost is tremendously high though: devastated land in place of beautiful modern towns and cities, mass graves in the backyards of residential areas, kids becoming orphans, and infrastructure being destroyed. War crimes and genocide–this is what it is, and there can be no redemption.

When the war ends with our victory and russia gets stuck in the deadlock of the sanctions, military and economic losses, international isolation, and the eventual fall of putin and his regime, Ukraine will need financial, humanitarian, diplomatic help from the international community, just as it needs it now. Along with that, the world would need to deal with the aftermath of the war and do its homework. It should include efforts to redesign the international security framework and face the challenges of the global food crisis caused by the war. Basically, when the war ends helping Ukraine to come back to normal life will mean helping the world.

My Bosniak friend, Riada, a journalist who often writes about genocide in her country in the ‘90s, keeps supporting me during this time. The other day she sent me an open letter from a Sarajevo siege survivor to Ukrainians published on BBC. The letter was about the message on her 30-year-old teeshirt that sustained the woman during 1425 days of the siege. Modified for us, the message was “Ukraine will be, everything else will pass.” This is what we here think now.

Oh, and you asked whether I have pets. Well, our older daughter asked for a dog many times. My husband and I always thought two kids are enough to keep ourselves busy and our apartment a mess. Now we’ve had a deal that we would get a dog after the war is over – we want to see our apartment the happiest mess ever. Today it’s 40 days since we left it.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or

DelVal Politicians, Residents Share Thanksgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday, brings people together. Across a table, across the miles, and even across the partisan political aisle.

At the center of Thanksgiving is the dinner table. What will you find on it this year?

A Delaware Valley Journal Twitter poll showed stuffing is the favorite side dish hands down, with green bean casserole a distant second. Some Delaware Valley residents listen to DJ Pierre Robert on WMMR play “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie every Thanksgiving. Robert is celebrating 40 years on the air this year. For others, it’s watching football on TV.

“My favorite activity is being with extended family,” said Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub. “My favorite food is either the top of my sister-in-law’s sweet potato pie or the green bean casserole with the crunchy Durkee onions on it.”

Several Delaware Valley politicians shared their own favorite activities and holiday foods, as well.

“I’m a traditionalist: Turkey, taters, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, pecan pie,” said state Sen.  Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery).

Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor said, “Thanksgiving ’til Christmas is my favorite time of year. I have great memories of all my brothers and sisters, mom and dad enjoying the holidays. I am a stuffing and turkey lover, and all my brothers and sisters, nephews, and nieces, totaling about 50 or 60, go over to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. Followed by my favorite blueberry or peach pie!”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, an Abington resident, and Democrat running for governor said he always celebrates Thanksgiving with his family, cooking together and watching football. He likes to cook two turkeys with his brother: One in the oven and one on the grill.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Guy Ciarrocchi said, “For almost 20 years, Thanksgiving has meant hosting my wife’s (very large) family. Chris is one of seven. Often, my mom would join us (dad passed away in 1989). Mom now lives with us. It was sad that we couldn’t all be together last year; hope to see most this year. And, we are excited that our three children will join us! I am the chef and my specialty is my mushroom gravy—a recipe of one part being taught by mother-in-law and one part my experimenting over the years. We are thankful and blessed to be together this year.”

“Our family has a favorite sweet potato recipe – it is the only thing that my kids really care about!” said Montgomery County Chair Dr. Val Arkoosh, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate. “One year my sister was visiting (it was originally her recipe) and she accidentally put a cup of salt instead of a cup of sugar into the mix. It was Thanksgiving Day and the stores were all closed so we couldn’t get any more sweet potatoes for a redo — a devastating day for all involved.”

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, a Republican running for governor, said, “We always host Thanksgiving at our home in West Chester. My wife, Stephanie, and I have four children and most of our extended family is also in the area because Stephanie and I both grew up in West Chester. Stephanie’s brother and his family live near Cleveland, however, and they also join us every year at Thanksgiving.  One tradition we enjoy is having a flag football game –dubbed ‘The Turkey Bowl’– on Thanksgiving morning with our family and some neighbors. We used to do it in our backyard when the kids were small, but we eventually outgrew that ‘field,’ and moved it to nearby Hoopes Park. It can get pretty competitive, now that the kids are mostly bigger, faster, and stronger than their elders! Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it puts the focus where it should be – on family, and on counting our blessings.”

State Sen. John Kane, a Democrat who represents parts of Chester and Delaware counties, said his favorite foods are cranberry sauce and stuffing. His favorite activity “used to be playing football, but now it’s falling asleep after dinner.”

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Dresher resident Rhonda Laikin said her favorite Thanksgiving dish is sweet potatoes and Elkins Park resident Nikki Gaston voted for green bean casserole. And Delaware Valley Journal writer Rick Woelfel said he likes mashed potatoes the best.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or