‘Our hearts beat to the rhythm of worry’: A letter to a beloved grandmother in Ukraine

By Amina Sergazina, Echo magazine

Pictured: Yelizaveta Yuvkhimenko. Photo by K’Von Jackson.

Editor’s note: This article is from the Communication Department’s award-winning Echo magazine.

When Yelizaveta Yuvkhimenko was 14, she, her mother and two brothers moved from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Chicago. Her father had already been living in the U.S. so the four of them came to America on a family reunification visa. 

They had been living in the U.S. for five years when Russian forces invaded their home country in February. She and her family have tried to live a normal life, despite feeling mentally drained and deeply worried for their family and friends back in Ukraine. 

Yuvkhimenko, a sophomore cinema and TV arts major at Columbia College Chicago, says although she and her family are safe in Chicago, it feels as if they too are at war. A loud car horn or ambulance siren can trigger a terrifying image of what the front lines of the Russian invasion might be like. 

Yuvkhimenko dedicated this letter to her grandmother, who was living alone in Kyiv at the time she wrote it.

The letter was translated and edited by Amina Sergazina.


My dear Grandmother!

How are you there now? I just can’t even imagine. On the first day of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, I was restless. I was very nervous when you weren’t answering [the phone]. The whole family sat down and prayed for you. Our hearts beat to the rhythm of the worry, and our hands were clenched from the pain. From that moment, our appetite left us, and we didn’t sleep all night.

But [when you answered], after four hours of us carefully dialing the phone, [you spoke to us] with a calm voice, and calmed us down. It wasn’t for long, but we were very glad that you were well and safe.

From that moment, I lost count of the days. Even though I saw the sun or the moon in the sky, I didn’t understand whether it was morning or night. The calls we made to you every two hours were very frightening and emotional. When you didn’t pick up the phone, my brain made up the most terrible stories on its own. And when you did answer, it hurt that we were not next to you, and I could do little to help. And in the end, the most terrible thing was the thought that this could be our last call. 

I remember the days when we were together, how joyfully we spent our time. You were the one who taught me the alphabet and [how to read] books, to cook light meals and to appreciate what is important in this life: people, the beauty of nature and every moment. I am very grateful to God that you are my grandmother and for being with me from birth until I moved to live in America.

Only now, when the war began, I realized how little I said “thank you” and “I love you very much.” I pray for your health and safety. May the Lord bless and protect you so that no bullet, bomb, mine or rocket touches you. That’s why I’m not saying goodbye to you in this letter. 

See you soon, I love you.



Yuvkhimenko’s family helped her grandmother safely make it to Chicago.  As of May 17, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights reported more than 7,814 Ukrainian casualties, as 3,752 civilians have been killed and 4,062 have been injured. About 6 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began, according to the Ukraine Refugee Situation.

You can read the entire 2022 issue of Echo, as well as previous issues, on our website.