MEMPHIS, TN – Imagine hearing air raid sirens all day long, bomb blasts in the distance, and being forced to live in the dark after the sun goes down. A Memphian who now calls Ukraine home says that has been his reality for nearly two months.

“We have basements here in the house, but there are also giant basements or bunker situations in buildings,’ said Winston Ware. “The closest one is about three blocks away. So. it’s pretty easy to run there.”

Local high school used for shelter/headquarters for resistance

Ware has been living in Ukraine with his Ukranian wife, Marta Yeremenko, for three years. The couple met in Midtown Memphis.

Winston Ware & Marta Yeremenko

“I work for a Ukrainian organization. I really haven’t worked with them since like a week before,” said Ware.

Ware is talking about the week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The couple lives in the northeast region of the country. He said their city has been relatively unscathed by the war, but they are close enough to hear the explosions.

“Just the other day, we had a rainstorm, and I freaked out, and everyone in town was messaging each other because it sounds like a bomb,” said Ware.

Ware said air raid sirens are still a daily occurrence. They are still doing nightly blackouts and just starting to get food and other items back on store shelves.

“More supplies are able to get through. After the Kyiv Oblast region was liberated a couple of weeks ago, it’s been better, but the news from the rest of the country, especially in the east and the south, is awful,” Ware said.

He said the horrors of the war had directly impacted friends and friends of friends.

“I have a friend whose parent’s apartment was obliterated, and her mother lost a leg,” said Ware. “No one close to me, but it’s a tragedy.”

Ware worries the rest of the world isn’t paying enough attention to what is happening in his adopted country and said despite the devastation, morale is still high.

“We feel like we’ve already won to an extent if you consider Putin wanted to topple Kyiv in the first week,” he said. “Morale kind of sank when we saw what happened in Bucha with all the mass graves and everything, but we are staying strong.”

Making Molotov cocktails during the start of the war

Even though Russian forces have retreated from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned the war is entering a new phase, and evidence that Russian troops committed atrocities against civilians has continued to mount.

“Ukraine is a great and wonderful country, and it’s just the biggest tragedy in the world.,” Ware said. “That a sovereign nation, minding its own business, you know, has to deal with this,” said Ware.

Ware hopes he will be able to return to the states in June for his brother’s wedding.