African Barber Survives Russian Occupation of Bucha, Gives Free Haircuts to Ukrainian Soldiers Amid War
''Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind,'' said the late former US president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in his address before the United Nations on September 25, 1961.
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When Russia launched attacks on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on February 24, Gelson Satuta and his pregnant Ukrainian wife lived in Bucha, a small town 30km from Kyiv.
The chaotic sounds from the strikes triggered adrenaline of anxiety and fear for his life and his family. His wife was in the seventh month with their first child, and the enemy had hit close to home, sparking a legitimate need for safety.
But while many fled their homes and later the country as attacks on Ukraine intensified, Satuta's urge to defend and fight for Ukraine, a country he had come to love, became laudably pronounced.
He tells YEN.com.gh that the eagerness to enlist in the Ukrainian military to defend the country was more for his family in the beginning - but the pain and trauma of seeing his wife cry over the sufferings of her people was the last straw. He has an intense love for his family and the country that received him like one of their own.
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Gelson Satuta arrives in Ukraine
The Angolan native and last of five brothers arrived in Ukraine in 2014, aged 20, to further his education. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in Civil Construction Engineering from the Dnipro National University of Railway Transport.
Within these years, he experienced warmth and affection from the Ukrainian people and even found love in his now-wife.
In the beginning, my life in Ukraine was not easy because for me everything was new; language, culture, habit, climate, etc, he recalled.
He admits that there were many times he wanted to give up and go back to Angola, where he was born. ''But many Ukrainian friends gave me a lot of support not to give up and that everything would be okay.''
That's where my love for this country started; they didn’t treat me like a simple student or a simple foreigner; they accepted me the way I am. Not caring much about my skin tone or where I came from. I was always treated like one of them, he tells YEN.com.gh's Nathaniel Crabbe.
Family man gripped by fear as war unfolds
With a solid education, a family, and a vocation as a celebrity barber, he had a flourishing life - but the war unfolded and carried an unimagined dark fate pregnant with anxiety, fear, and excruciating deaths.
When the war started, I confess that I was afraid of losing my family and dying because the attacks started in my city.
At the time, my wife was seven months pregnant ... I just thought about going to be part of the Ukrainian military to defend the country, he recalled.
Though he applied to join the Ukrainian military, his wife told him the war was not his. ''The important thing at the moment is to keep us safe,'' he said.
Three days after the unprovoked attacks on Ukraine, Satuta and his better half separated from his wife's parents.
We had to leave for the had to leave for the west of Ukraine in a quieter city that borders Poland. My pregnant wife wanted our daughter to be born healthy, so staying in Bucha was not the best option because the enemy was closer to us.
War births an African hero
When Satuta had the opportunity to leave with his family, as Angola provided a flight to rescue all its citizens in Ukraine, he refused to relocate.
Not because I felt like a hero, but because my wife's people are also my people ... She told me ''this is my house. My whole family is here. I’m not ready to abandon them''.
As Russia advanced, focusing its military operations in the south, east, and northeast and seizing large areas of Ukraine, he offered to fight in the war. But, he never had the opportunity to put his desire into action because he had no war experience.
How the war affected Gelson Satuta's business
Unlike thousands who have painfully lost their lives in the war, Satuta, his wife, and his six-month-old daughter are relatively safe. The war has, however, had a crippling toll on his business.
Right now, work is difficult for everyone. Unfortunately, job opportunities rarely appear. The economy has dropped; everything has become expensive. My business was also affected because they bombed my salon.
Despite the continuous onslaught and strikes on Ukraine, Satuta is keeping hope alive. He tells YEN.com.gh that he has faith that Ukraine will recover. For now, he spends most of his time and days engaging in community work by helping the military cut hair. His passion for barbing also keeps him going.
Gelson Satuta desires a better life for his daughter
Satuta loves Ukraine, but with the United Nations reporting that more than 14,200 people killed, including 3,404 civilians in the war so far, his daughter is his priority.
Russia has refused to label its invasion of Ukraine as a war as it drives the narrative that it is undertaking a "special military operation" in Ukraine, said the BBC.
The Kremlin has said its operations would continue "until all the tasks originally set" had been achieved, including "demilitarising Ukraine".
Satuta plans to relocate to the United States to secure his family's future as the end of the Russia-Ukraine war is not in sight; he wants his daughter to grow up surrounded by love and less turbulence.
Like many distraught parents in Ukraine, he is focused on a better life for his daughter, even if it means leaving a country he loves deeply.
Facts about the Russia-Ukraine war
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, surrounding the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. It further launched attacks in the south, east, and north. Ukrainian forces retook large areas around Kyiv in early April and made Russians run away.
Per the BBC, Russia holds about 20 percent of Ukraine, according to the ISW. The areas are largely in the eastern Donbas region and in the south of mainland Ukraine, as well as the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah: Looming China-Taiwan Conflict Will Affect Ghana Like Russia-Ukraine War
Meanwhile, YEN.com.gh previously reported that the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has cautioned on how the looming China-Taiwan conflict will further worsen the country's economic crisis.
The Akufo-Addo-led government has blamed the current turmoil in the country on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Government officials say those two problems have thrown things out of gear in the country and led to general hardships.
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