After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, most Americans hate Russia, and I understand more about the difference between “dyakuyu” and “spasiba” – Kelsie Kimberlin

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, most Americans hate Russia, and I understand more about the difference between "dyakuyu" and "spasiba" - Kelsie Kimberlin

Kelsie Kimberlin is an American-Ukrainian singer who lives in Washington, DC. She recently visited Ukraine to demonstrate her strong support for her other homeland, Ukraine, in this time of Russia's brutal war against us.

For several weeks, she has been doing a lot of humanitarian work - visiting the Ukrainian military, a hospital, a refugee center, orphanages, filming the consequences of the heinous crimes of the russian army on our territory, communicating and supporting those who suffered from the occupation forces in Irpin, Bucha and other de-occupied cities, and filming several music videos about the impact of the war on Ukraine and Ukrainians to call on the world to support us and stop the war that threatens not only us, but all civilized countries.

"Every day I see the atrocities committed against Ukraine, it is hard and painful for me to watch what is happening. But I realize that I have to be there not only informationally, but also physically," Kelsie wrote before arriving in Ukraine. How did the filming go, what did she see and feel among the destroyed civilian houses in Ukraine, was she afraid of sirens during air raids, and what message is she returning to America with? Kelsie Kimberlin told about this and other things exclusively to the ArmyInform correspondent.

For reference:

Kelsie Kimberlin is a popular American-Ukrainian singer who has been very active in support of Ukraine since the beginning of the large-scale invasion. In her music videos, she calls on people from all over the world to speak out in support of Ukraine in any way they can and to join charitable initiatives to support Ukrainians and the Armed Forces. Kelsie has given countless interviews on radio and television, speaking frankly about what is happening in Ukraine. Her music video about Ukraine "Spoof I Wonder" has received over 350 thousand views and is in active rotation on more than 80 radio stations around the world.

The video "We Are Ukrainian", in which Kelsie addresses the entire civilized world, has received a great response both in the media and on social media.

Kelsie and her family in the United States have sponsored and hosted at least a dozen war refugees.

Artists help open people's eyes to what is really happening with their videos

- Kelsie, you spent two weeks in Ukraine filming a video for your new music video for the song "Armageddon". You saw with your own eyes what happened after the Russian attacks in the Kyiv region (Irpin, Bucha) and, like all Ukrainians here, you had to hear air raid sirens because of new Russian attacks... Even now we are talking to the sound of sirens. Tell us, how did you feel here, where there is an active war going on, and what was it like to experience firsthand what Ukrainians feel every day?

- Yes, during the filming, we heard dozens of sirens almost all the time, and I saw Shahed attack drones and a Kinzhal hypersonic missile flying almost directly over my head. It was especially scary on the last day of our stay, because the Russian attack happened in the afternoon and we saw what was happening in the sky. It was like some kind of madness. The windows were shaking...

These sirens were just unbearable. They sounded day and night. Every time I woke up. However, I realized that we knew what was ahead of us, we knew that we would return to America in peace, while Ukrainians would continue to live like this here.

- Did you regret deciding to come?

- I thought it was worth the risk, because the video we made can help Americans and other people in the world understand that Ukrainians need to close the sky from Russian attacks. I think that showing people places they don't see in the news is very important. Because the news doesn't tell you everything that's going on.

With my work in Ukraine, I try to make people realize that the war is still going on and it's still very serious. And that Ukraine needs to get help. At the moment I think the US can help Ukraine more, and I think all the other countries can too. So, it's important that as many people as possible keep talking about it, maybe we can all together actually help Ukraine win. That's what I'm trying to do. Because a lot of people look at artists, at celebrities, and if they actually see that someone has actually been to all these places, shows real footage in their videos, especially of houses that were fine at first, and then they're just destroyed, or a church that's destroyed, it's different... I am not a very big celebrity yet, but I am a Ukrainian woman who wants people to talk about Ukraine. My videos will help people to feel this reality that Ukrainians live in every day, to think about what each of them can do to help. So I just want you to be proud to be Ukrainian, of course, I'm really happy that my mom is Ukrainian and I'm Ukrainian as well. And I thought, if anyone should convey this to Americans, it should be a Ukrainian American.

- Were you afraid during the alarms?

- Actually, there was never any time. We have to thank the Ukrainian military, who are very well trained and who kept this danger away from us. That's why I think we felt safe because of all the military, every single one of them, because of what they do. So we just worked.

In the US, in every interview, I am asked about Ukraine, about what is really happening here

- The video "Armageddon" is an absolute contrast to your previous work about Ukraine in 2021, "Masterpiece," where you showed the beauty of the landscapes near Kyiv and the architecture of Lviv. How did you feel when you came to Ukraine and saw all the brutality of the Russian army with your own eyes?

- That's why I decided to visit Ukraine, to witness all the horrors and suffering Ukrainians have been experiencing not only after the invasion of Russian troops, but throughout the more than nine years of war. I visited dozens of places where the most horrific atrocities committed by the Russian army around Kyiv took place, the greatest horror of the 21st century.

- Do you have any feedback from your audience about your work in Ukraine? How does the American public react to the events in Ukraine?

- I always get positive feedback from all over the country (the U.S. - Ed.) Before the war, I had a few songs that hit the top 20 on the radio. That's why I do a lot of interviews. This year, in every interview I do, I am always asked about Ukraine, about what is happening here. I understand that America is a different world, but they all ask and talk about it. I have a bunch of music video blogs that are about my songs. So what I do is interesting to them. And one more thing, every video I release, I always tag it with the hashtag #StandWithUkraine. This is something I can do to remind people about Ukraine.

- How did the filming go, and who helped you in Ukraine?

- It took us four days to get here. And when we arrived, we quickly discussed the plans, locations, whether we all liked it and what ideas we had. We brainstormed, and the next day we went to each location to see what was there, what emotions would be there, whether we would be able to shoot. And it was also a bit difficult, because my father and I were in places that were under military control, so we had to work with the military command and get permission to film. Thank God, I have the phone number of an amazing person I've been working with for many years in Ukraine. My good friend Andriy was constantly running around during the shoot to get permits for the next location. We also had to have doctors with us, so we had to involve a special commission. It was really a lot of work. My dad helped a lot. I also had a photographer who was able to capture a lot of things for social media...

We worked 12-16 hours a day, sometimes we would go out and there would be no restaurants open because of the curfew. And we would come home to do it all again the next day. But we were all very immersed in the project. So we shot the video not for one, but for three music videos at once. For the songs "Turn Back", "Armageddon", and "Another Chance".

Armageddon official video

Armageddon official audio

- Who writes songs for you?

- I write my songs myself, and often my dad helps me. It was he who helped me write "Armageddon," and I wrote the other two songs about Ukraine. My dad and I often brainstorm, come to the studio and work. It's really cool to have people who work with you in a team.

The places I've visited in Ukraine make my hair stand on end

- What did you see during the filming that impressed you the most?

- In Irpin, I saw hundreds of houses and apartments damaged or destroyed by rocket and artillery fire, and inside, among the broken plates from interrupted dinners, there were burnt family photos, a melted Barbie doll and a small child's bike, completely rusted after it had been burned to the ground. I could feel the hairs on my skin standing up when I visited these homes.

I visited a cultural center that used to be used for performances and concerts, but was also completely destroyed after a rocket attack. Sheet music was lying on the stage, and the acrid smell of kerosene filled the air. But even more shocking to me was the youth soccer field in the backyard, dotted with dozens of artillery craters, surrounded by thousands of deep shrapnel scars. They pierced everything in the area - walls, fence, trees, benches, signs - over a five-acre area.

- Your video also shows burnt-out cars. Were you told that civilian Ukrainians were trying to leave the cities in them to escape the occupation and shelling?

- Yes, I saw a huge "car cemetery" of hundreds of mangled and burned cars, vans, buses and motorcycles that once belonged to civilians in Irpin and Bucha. I was told that when Russia started shelling these areas, civilian families quickly gathered everything they could and rushed to a safer place, but were killed by Russian missiles, mortars and cold-blooded machine gun fire from the Russian occupiers.

I also visited the destroyed bridge under which civilians were hiding in the middle of winter to protect themselves from Russian air attacks. I saw at least a dozen destroyed or disfigured churches with icons broken on the ground...



- Did you know the story of any of the people who lived in those houses destroyed by the Russians? How did the residents react to you during the filming?

- Yes. It was terrible to actually see these houses and know that someone had lived and died there... When I got to such a house, it was the most emotional for me, especially in one apartment that was completely destroyed. There was nothing left of it. I knew about a person who lived in this house, fortunately she had left two days before it happened. Her father told me about it. He reacted negatively to us at first, but eventually thanked us for making the video so that others could see it  In fact, it is quite difficult to realize that there were many accidental victims.

In Bucha, women and girls, hearing that I was an American, came up to me, took my hand and told me their stories of loss and survival. Everyone knew someone who had died or disappeared in Russian torture chambers, where men were taken after being rounded up and tortured in the worst ways, then shot and left in the street or buried in shallow graves. The women and girls, who must live not only with the loss of their loved ones, but also with the memories of the unspeakable horror they themselves experienced, were raped, abducted and tortured by a gang of barbaric Russian soldiers. Many children simply disappeared after they were last seen being loaded into Russian convoys.

- You also filmed locations in Kyiv where you used to visit as a child. What impressed you the most? What has changed since you came here?

- In Kyiv, I visited the Wall of Memory, which was as long as a football field and covered with thousands of photos of soldiers who died defending their country. Near it, I saw a mother and her daughter carefully attaching a photo of her husband who died at the front. I saw a soldier with a bouquet of white irises walking slowly along the line of photos when he suddenly stopped. He leaned his forehead against the wall, started crying and went down on one knee. Then, he put the flowers in an empty vase, straightened up and saluted his fallen comrade. It was unbearable for me, and I could not stand it

- I know that there is a large Ukrainian diaspora in America. Do you participate in their events in support of Ukraine?

- Yes, for example, we provide assistance to Ukrainians who were forced to leave Ukraine. My grandmother is also hosting refugees right now. We have had people whom we helped to get their own housing and get back on their feet.

- Regarding the humanitarian mission in Ukraine that you mentioned before you arrived. What exactly did you manage to do, given the tight shooting schedule?

- I visited a military hospital in Kyiv to pay my respects to those who were injured while defending their country. There, I met with one of the military commanders and a soldier, Sashko, who was wounded at Azovstal in Mariupol and then captured by the Russians and held for 15 months. They told me that when he was released as part of a prisoner exchange, he arrived at the hospital as a living skeleton, skin and bones, with 15 shrapnel wounds, the loss of three fingers and an eye. I told him how grateful I was for his service and sacrifice, and how proud I was of his strength and endurance. He smiled and thanked me and America. I was very touched and impressed by this.

My mom grew up in a small town where everyone knew where everyone's house keys were

- You said that you spent your summer vacation in Ukraine. Where exactly was it and what do you remember from that time?

- Yes, when I was little, I used to spend a lot of time at my grandmother's house in the Kyiv region. In the city itself, I started walking with friends when I got a little older, and when I was a kid, we used to go to the Black Sea. We loved going there, camping, it was a lot of fun. Now I look at everything that's happening and realize that it's impossible to go back to the incredibly amazing Black Sea. It is very sad. Ironically, we couldn't go to Ukraine because of the covid either. But I kept thinking about what we saw here. I was always either in a raspberry patch picking raspberries and eating them or in a sunflower field picking flowers, in fact, those were two of my favorite things to do whenever we came. My mother grew up in a small town where everyone knew each other, so every time we went there, despite the time difference, we would have a party and all the neighbors would come, whether they knew you or not. They would bring food, some drinks, sit all night, eating, talking, so that was one of my favorite parts. I felt like I was welcome. It was inspiring, there was a sense of freedom there.

Speaking a foreign language is like using a document that is not your own when you don't know whether you are Ukrainian or Russian

- So do you know Ukrainian? Or maybe Russian, not just English?

- I used to go to school every Saturday, but my mom grew up in the Soviet Union, and that led to my family mixing Russian and Ukrainian... It's a bit confusing. But I understand the difference between "dyakuyu" and "spasiba". Years ago, we always heard someone in Ukraine say "spasiba," but now everyone is trying to go back to their roots and actually speak their language. It's wonderful. It's like using a document that's not your own for a long time, and then finally realizing who you really are, Russian or Ukrainian.

My friends in America are proud to know a Ukrainian

- Do you still have relatives in Ukraine?

- Yes, I have a lot of relatives. My cousin came to Kyiv last week and joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine. While I was in America, a nephew was born.

My grandparents who lived here died not long ago. But we still have our home in Ukraine.

- What do your friends in America say about the fact that you are Ukrainian?

- They are proud to know a Ukrainian woman. They know that this is a brave people for the whole world. I understand that Russian aggression against Ukraine actually began in 2014 or even earlier. However, it was not in the news, and the whole world did not see what it should have seen. Almost two years passed, many of my friends turned to my mom the most, they talked to her and asked me how my family was doing, if we were talking to anyone. It was a way of showing their support, just checking in and asking how to explain the news, if there was anything else they should know. Because sometimes the news doesn't show everything, so they want to know more about what was going on. Many friends supported me, especially when I came under fire. Many people wrote to me saying, please tell me if this is a real video from those places, they were just shocked, they said: "I can't believe you survived all that, it's horrible!". Some said that there would be many Ukrainians who would probably have PTSD. No one understood how you sleep during these air raids. 

Zelenskyy's aide gave me a blanket as a symbol of the American Patriots' defense of Ukraine

- We know that the United States is actively helping Ukraine in our struggle and we are sincerely grateful for this. What did those who talked to you ask you, as an American, to convey to your government and society?

- Everyone I met wanted me to go back to America and tell them two things. First, to say "thank you" to the Americans for supporting Ukraine. From the waiter, to the taxi driver, to the refugee, to the military commander, to the officials in the President's Office, they are all immensely grateful to America for their support in this fight. I was very touched when one of President Zelensky's aides gave me a blue blanket with a yellow map of Ukraine on it. He said: "America gave us the Patriot missile defense system for protection, and it's like a warm blanket that allows Ukrainians to sleep at night, so we want to give you this blanket to keep you warm and remember how grateful we are."

Secondly, everyone wants Americans and members of Congress to know that Ukraine is not only defending itself, but also defending America and the entire civilized world from Russian terror. They say that if Russia wins in Ukraine, it will attack other peaceful countries in Europe and America. Now Ukrainians are shedding their blood to defend freedom, democracy and civilized values. For this reason, they said that it is crucial for Ukraine to have more support and weapons, and that only a complete victory for Ukraine can guarantee that others will not have to shed their blood.

In other words, the message from Ukraine to the Americans is one of sincere gratitude for all that support, and that only together can our countries win and open a new century of peace and prosperity in the world.

I want Ukraine to win, restore all its territories and become whole

- Very often, Russian propaganda says that the world is tired of the war in Ukraine, and therefore does not want to support us anymore. What about Americans, how do they feel about the war in Ukraine?

- I don't think anyone is tired of it, I see that most people in the United States support Ukraine and want you to win. I heard many Americans say after the Russian invasion of Ukraine that they hate Russia. I heard them say that they hope you win. A lot of people are angry with Russia and it is not difficult for anyone in the US to hear about Ukraine and help. One small question from my friends about my mom, which is heard all the time, makes me realize that I have been supported all this time, that nothing has been forgotten.

- What would you like to wish Ukrainians?

- Obviously, like everyone else, I want one thing - victory. I want the Ukrainians to win and for all this to stop. I want people to be able to live in peace, and I hope you know that we can all unite and help with the possible reconstruction of those places that have been affected, that have been destroyed. I want to see all the borders that Russia has been building for many years and for all of history return. I want Ukraine to regain all its territories and become whole.

Olga Mosondz, Army Info

Ukraine Front Lines


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