No Russian missiles or bombs were falling on Uzhhrod when I visited this city of 120,000 in western Ukraine three weeks ago. But there were plenty of fresh graves. The remains of 39 men from this city, ages 21 to 54, reside in this cemetery, all killed since Russia's invasion in February.
An older part of the cemetery contains the bodies of men and women from this city, some of the more than 14,000 Ukrainians killed since Russia's first invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea in 2014. "For us," said Anatoly Sukhalov, who takes care of the cemetery, "this war has been going on for a long time."
The price of Ukraine's resistance to Russia's brutal war is almost unimaginable for most Americans. In addition to the destruction of half of Ukraine's power grid which has plunged Uzhhrod and most of the Zakarpattia region into freezing nights and days without electricity, Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that over 2,000 Ukrainian schools, 500 hospitals, 150,000 dwellings, and 20,000 miles of road have been destroyed. "This is genocide," he said.
Last week, the U.S. and Germany finally agreed to give Ukraine the tanks for which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading. America's gas-guzzling M-1 Abrams tanks and Germany's Leopard 2's, more flexible and easier to operate, may help Kyiv take the military initiative ahead of an expected new Russian offensive this spring.
Recently, Washington announced yet another package of $2.5 billion in arms -- Stryker armored combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and the Patriot, the most advanced ground-based air defense system. But Ukraine has been begging for such advanced weapons for months. America's endless internal dithering has delayed giving Ukraine what it needs to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from systematically razing the country.
The same cannot be said for humanitarian aid spurred by American outrage over Putin's savagery. While the U.S. government alone has committed over $2 billion in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, the outpouring of support from individuals and non-government groups has been nothing short of astonishing.
Andrij Dobriansky, a U.N. representative for Ukraine's global diaspora who translated during my recent trip, estimates that the 1.5 million Ukrainian Americans, joined by some 200,000 refugees in the U.S., have raised over $100 million in emergency aid.
Archbishop Gudziak said that his church's parishioners alone have donated over $8,300,000. "This solidarity is not top down, as in the Russian army," he said. "It's bottom up -- a sense of solidarity based on a belief in human dignity."
Renew Democracy Initiative, the non-profit founded six years ago by Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster and former world champion, to unite over 50 dissidents from 30 oppressive countries to celebrate and promote America's founding values, has raised over $10 million and has partnered with local groups and non-profits to deliver food, sleeping bags, and basic supplies.
Individuals, too, have demonstrated astonishing creativity. Hours after the Russian invasion, Jose Andres, who created the World Central Kitchen, sent food workers to help feed refugees crossing the border. Since then, some 4,500 staff and Ukrainian volunteer "food fighters" --chefs, drivers, warehouse managers, and logistics experts— have helped serve over 1 million meals a day throughout the country.
Mark Antal, a former Delta Force operator who provided security on my recent trip, spends weeks in Ukraine training women in towns and villages on a project called "Stop the Bleed," which provides basic nursing skills to women in towns and villages to treat wounded civilians.
"It only takes two-to-five minutes for a wounded person to bleed out," he said. In Ukraine, it can take up to 45 minutes for medical help to arrive. "So a trained civilian is a life-saver," he said.
Three weeks ago, I accompanied Earle Mack, a philanthropist and former U.S. ambassador to Finland, on his third trip to the country. Enraged by Russia's barbarism, he and former New York Gov. George Pataki traveled to Ukraine to ask officials what they needed most.
In January, Mack delivered the first of 385 industrial-strength heaters he had purchased to the governor of the Zakarpattia region. Operating on a single load of diesel fuel, the heater can run for 31 hours and heat a 20,000 cubic feet area, the size of a hotel ballroom.
"I wanted to do more than write a check," Mack said. Delivering the heaters in person, he said, ensured that they would reach their intended recipients, or what he called philanthropic "boots on the ground." Last week, Mack and Pataki launched a website -- "HeatUkraine.org" – to raise money for more heaters and other vital supplies to prevent Russia from crushing Ukrainian morale.
Although I had visited Ukraine eight times before Russia's invasion, nothing quite prepared me for the determination of Ukrainians to continue fighting until Russian forces totally withdraw. The resilience of ordinary Ukrainians -- their optimism, tenacity, and determination to persevere despite bombings, cold, hunger, and a crushed economy – was astonishing.
So, too, was their gratitude towards Americans for support in this existential struggle, a rarity in much of the world these days. "Your help and the resistance of the Ukrainian people will force Putin to withdraw," Viktor Mykyta, the governor of the Zakarpattia region, told us. "But even when Putin leaves, it may not save him. His crimes here will never be forgotten."