Ukraine Before Russia's War: How it Looked

I never thought that my travel videos on YouTube would be of any significant use besides a bit of entertainment and fun. I especially didn't think small cities in Ukraine like Irpin, or even the large but relatively unknown city of Kharkiv would be on the minds of millions of people world wide. 

To be honest, my videos didn't and couldn't even capture how much beauty, joy, and happiness there was in Ukraine for Russia's invasion. I tried showing my day to day life as much as I could, what the city and apartments looked like, but honestly, Ukraine has always been a country that was deeper than first impressions. Take a look at the before and after videos, and try to see for yourself. 

Irpin, Ukraine: Before Russia's Attack

As you'll see in this video, the only real fault Irpin ever had was being too peaceful, too much of a nice quiet place for families to live. The tongue in cheek titles were chosen because my friend Ben (Bald and Bankrupt) actually considered moving there as it was such a nice little city nearby Kyiv. 

I had even said in the video that I could see myself happily living there in the future when I'm married with kids and a dog. Watch the video and try to get a sense of what Irpin was like before Russia's brutal attack on the city. 

Irpin, Ukraine: After Russia's Attack

It's crazy to watch and see the exact same streets, apartment buildings, the central park, roads and bridge that we had driven through completely destroyed. 

The people who moved to Irpin were mostly families, or hardworking older Ukrainians who for moved there for the lower costs of living completed to Kyiv. Many had fled the war in Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014 to start a new life near the capital. Now Putin has brought the way back to them. 

Kharkiv, Ukraine: Before Russia's Attack

The student city of Kharkiv was another place where the only fault was that it was too peaceful and quiet for some. This was a beautiful city with parks that ran through the city center, children's playgrounds, cafes, restaurants, and Universities. 

I liked Kharkiv so much that I ended up buying a small apartment there. Not only was Kharkiv an up and coming city, it was already there, just undiscovered by most people. It's funny that the joke within Ukraine was anyone who didn't love Kharkiv, had never actually been there before.

Kharkiv, Ukraine: After Russia's Attack

It's crazy watching this as even though I know exactly which streets they are on, as I lived there, I can ofter barely recognize the city as it was so heavily destroyed by Russian bombs and missile attacks. 

I don't even know if my condo there exists anymore, and there's no way for me to know until this war is over and it's safe enough to go back. There's no such thing as war insurance, so everyone there who has lost their homes are screwed. The strangest thing is that Kharkiv was primarily Russian speaking and was much more "pro-russia" than most other cities in Ukraine, yet Putin decided to destroy it first. 


Kyiv, Ukraine: Before Russia's Attack

The capital city of Kyiv (formally known as Kiev) was the city I fell in love. At first it had to do with a girl, but that's not why I stayed and bought a home there. I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food, the coffee shops, restaurants, and the pace of life there. It was like I finally found a place that I felt at peace, and at home.

That's why I decided to spend my life savings to buy and renovate a home there. It was in the most amazing location possible, just two blocks away from Khreshchatyk, the main street in Kyiv. But then Russia attacked...

Kyiv, Ukraine: After Russia's Attack

We're lucky that as of March 27th, 2022 the capital city of Kyiv is mostly still damaged by Russia's war. However, that may.change if Putin doesn't stock his attack soon. Over half of Kyiv's residents, including myself and most of my friends have fled the capital to safer cities or countries. 

The saddest news is that out of the millions of Ukrainians who have already left, many of them will never return even after the war. With long term visas issued by countries in the EU, Canada, and even Asylum in the USA, many Ukrainians will start a new life is those countries, find jobs and homes. Putin has already destroyed this beautiful city.  

Final thoughts: Hoping this War Ends

I loved my life in Ukraine and would trade everything to go back to it right now. It haunts me everyday knowing what is happening and that this war has now continued for over a month. I often wonder if I could had helped if I had stayed, or if I should go back and help now. But the honest truth is, I would had been more of a liability than a help there. I'm not a trained solider, and don't speak the language well enough to even be able to properly communicate. 

I am extremely grateful and appreciative to everyone who is physically in Ukraine fighting the war, and helping on the ground. But I know that I barely would had made a dent in helping in that way. What I do have though that most others don't is a massive online reach and the ability to create and share content online so inform the world of what is happening in Ukraine. In the past month I've leveraged that and have collected and raise funds to help support the cause.

I'm proud to announce that in the past month I've helped raise somewhere between $20,000-$40,000 in donations directly to Ukraine. It's hard to know the exact amount, as I mostly encouraged people to donate directly to the war and humanitarian efforts in Ukraine directly, and have been relying on people messaging me screenshots of their donations to tell me what they sent. But in the past week I also started a GoFundMe, turned on YouTube fundraising which has already raised over $3,500 to Razom for Ukraine and a fundraiser within Instagram itself which has raised close to $1,000 for Nova Ukraine

I hope and pray that Russia's war in Ukraine ends soon. But until that happens, lets all try and do our part in helping. You can go to anti-war rallies in your city, create content or share posts to raise awareness to the world, donate your time or your money, or simply share posts like this with your friends, family and through social media to spread the word. 

I am 100% confident and sure that Ukraine will win this war as I know the heart of Ukrainian people, they will never give up. But my fear and the question is, what will be left of Ukraine once the war finally finishes. Let us never forget what the cities of Irpin, Kharkiv, Mariupol and many others looked like before the war, so we can one day go back and rebuild them even better.

Slava Ukraine,

Johnny FD


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  1. What was your best memory of Ukraine (from the videos or in person) from before the war?


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