In her day job, Katia Pokhodnya works from her Bolton Hill home for the Securities and Exchange Commission. She responds to whistleblowers – sometimes brave, aggrieved men and women willing to report corporate wrongdoing or fraud. But today she is in touch with other brave and aggrieved people, friends and family on the run or enduring bloodshed in her native Ukraine.
She talks to them every day – some in Kyiv, where she was raised, and others who have fled the capital or left the country – women, some with children. She speaks also with men who cannot leave and are fending off the Russian invasion as best they can and trying to live their lives.
“All of them are traumatized by the war, and many still can’t believe it is happening to them. They are surviving day by day, many not thinking long term. Some are wondering if they’ll ever be able to go back, worried about their children. One says that her child doesn’t want to go back home, where such bad things are happening,” the 38-year-old lawyer said. “We talk about their options.”
Katia left home with her parents and a sister in much calmer circumstances in 1998, a few years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine and Russia were pledging partnership and mutual protection. As a student there she was taught in both Russian and Ukrainian.
She studied and lived in several cities before marrying and settling in Bolton Hill. She, her husband, and two children live in a townhouse which, these days, flies a blue-and-yellow Ukraine flag. She is co-president of Mount Royal school’s PTO.
She is, she says, ready to invite those escaping the war to come to America and hopes the country will quickly change immigration policies to welcome Ukrainians escaping war. In the first days of Russia’s attack she was among the people who supported the stadium authority displaying Ukraine’s colors. She participated in protest demonstrations in D.C. and began encouraging donations to humanitarian organizations supporting Ukrainians.
Now she is more concerned about American support for the long haul. She hopes neighbors will join her in contributing to organizations helping families and supporting the military in Ukraine, but also with advocacy – reaching out to Maryland’s congressional delegation and keeping them focused on pressuring Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. “Ukrainians are fighting for the democratic values we all believe in, for freedom and self-determination, and American people’s support means so much right now,” she said. “We need to understand that higher gas prices are one way we are showing our support,” she added.
On her Facebook page she frequently updates friends and neighbors in this country with moving stories and ways to help, suggesting this compilation of resources, which she updates regularly: https://linktr.ee/kpimus. “We have to stand with Ukraine,” she said.
“It is tiring to see pictures of tragedy every day,” she said. “We become desensitized, numb. We use defensive mechanisms to keep functioning, to go on. It’s our human nature. But as long as Ukrainians are getting killed, it is the world’s duty to keep speaking, to keep protesting, to devote what efforts we can to making it stop. It is our duty to help.”
Katia and neighbors are hosting a fundraiser to support Ukraine on Friday, March 25, from 5-8 p.m. at Guilford Hall Brewery, 1611 Guilford Ave. Suggested contribution is $20 or more.
– Bill Hamilton