Helplessness, yellow tape, and how the Ukrainian War inspires hope


Victoria Scherban

Daryna, Rebecca, and Victoria Scherban (Far left, second from the right, far right) with friends in Cherkasy, Ukraine.

Amelia Jarrett, Features Editor

Throughout the past few years, the phrase “unprecedented times” has been repeated more than any person wants to hear in their lifetime. However, it’s not an inaccurate statement. From a global pandemic, to national social reform movements, and now a war in Ukraine, our world is facing complications like no other.

For myself, I am found in a unique situation. Though I have no blood relation, my family is, through adopted heritage, Ukrainian. My father grew up in the city of Kharkiv for most of the 90s and only a few years after moving to the U.S., he moved back after marrying my mother. They returned to the States after about two years, where my sister and I were born. We ended up making a trip as a family in the summer of 2011.

I don’t remember much about it, as I was only five years old, but I remember the family we stayed with. The Scherbans had been good friends of my parents while they were living there, and they let us stay with them. I remember my mother’s friend Irena, washing dishes at their kitchen sink. Her husband Igor, driving a station wagon to pick us up from the airport. Two of his daughters, Rebecca and Victoria, taught me to play card games, and pray in Russian. I remember the city, with all of its old apartments, passed down through generations. Stores filled with matryoshkas (nesting dolls) on the corner of each plaza. Cafes serving cutlets and syrniki, cups of borscht and plates of olivier, and all the other wonderful Ukrainian foods I grew up with. I remember wandering the metro, holding on tight to my mother’s hand, as Dad claimed he wasn’t lost. And when we finally found our way to our destination, I remember chasing pigeons around the plaza and marveling at the statue towering oh so high above my head.

Today, the cities are burning. Those cafes and shops are closed, the apartments abandoned or far too overpacked as people hide from the threats looming in the distance. The squares, previously so crowded, are covered in dust and rubble. The metros are crammed full of people, women, children, the young and the old. They are hiding, bracing themselves for every shake in the ground, or rushing towards the subway, and its coveted seats. Though my heart hurts for them, I am far across the ocean. I don’t have any money to send. I don’t remember enough Russian to keep track of everything they say. I find myself asking now, more than ever, how could I possibly do anything to help?

But our world has proven again and again that people can make a difference. That even the smallest amount of support can be enough.

As I mentioned, the Scherbans are doing their part for their community as well. The Scherbans started taking action, and nearly every morning, their daughter Darina gathers food and clothing, tactical gloves and yellow tape before they set out on a delivery route through the shell-shocked streets of Kharkiv. Victoria films the car ride, the delivery, the evening walks they take before the curfew sets in, as they try and spread their hope and resilience.

“I rejoice every morning when I wake up from the alarm clock, not explosions and missiles. But we are staying in Kharkov. With my family, church, team. This is not an easy time for each of us. But I know today we should be here,” Darina said in a Facebook post on March 31.

They have become an anchoring point of their neighborhood, as they welcome people into their home, and provide them with food and supplies. Darina set up a Telegram for their donations, with information about everything they needed. I keep going back to one message. A message asking for rolls of yellow duct tape “for the soldiers”. It seems insane to me that something like duct tape, something that in America we’ve taken for granted, was such an in-demand supply. If one roll of yellow duct tape was going to help, then really, anything would.

My father, Travis Jarrett, has started a fundraising campaign for the Scherbans and other loved ones in Ukraine. When he first set it up, we didn’t have many expectations. We knew our family would lend some, maybe other church members, or friends. Our expectations were shattered, when, as of today, our total stands at nearly $11,000, added in varying amounts by truly generous people. The money has been enough to help my dad’s good friend, Denys Kotenko, and his family. His wife Diana and their children have made it to Poland now.

“For seven days since February 24 till March 2 we had been staying in a basement,” Diana said in a video sent to my family. “And on the second of March we were able to evacuate from Kharkiv and spent 3 days trying to get to Poland. Today we are staying in a city called Szczecin. We decided to go no further because Denys and Daniel [her son] are in Ukraine. […] We believe that when this war ends we will be able to go back home.”

As donations continue to come through, with every blue and yellow flag I see, every fundraising goal met, every Instagram post claiming “Слава Украине” (“Glory to Ukraine”) I see hope. Hope for my family and friends, hope for Ukraine, and hope for myself; that the things we do truly matter. And I encourage others to learn from this moment, and do their best to help in whatever way they can, even if it’s one piece of yellow tape at a time.

For more resources and opportunities for aid please visit the following websites: 

World Vision Ukraine Crisis Fund

World Central Kitchen

The American Red Cross

Update: The Scherban family, along with many members of their team, are currently in Cherkasy, a city along the Dneiper River, in the middle of the country. Despite their relocation, they are still accepting donations and fundraising.