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The mainstream media depicts the war in Ukraine as a struggle over Ukraine’s desire to align itself closer to the European Union and NATO, and Russia’s desire to keep the country in its fold. 

However, for Vadim Nayda, a Ukrainian citizen here at East Jersey State Prison, the war is a family fight. Nayda currently has family members living in both Kyiv and Moscow. It causes him anguish to be isolated thousands of miles away in prison at a time when his family needs him the most. While Nayda wallows in a prison cell, the majority of his family are now fighting for survival, he said.

”All my male cousins have picked up arms, been mobilized into brigades, and have pledged to burn the city to the ground rather than surrender it to the Russians,” he said. 

He added that his mother, who is an American citizen, is trapped in Vinnitsa, a Ukrainian city close to the Polish border. Even though Nayda begged her to leave Ukraine, she said she stayed because nobody expected Putin to invade. 

The news in America is focused on rising gas prices and the potential impact on the economy. Nayda worries: “How many of his relatives would find themselves in untimely graves before the war is over?”

Nayda, who expects to be deported after completing his sentence, owns a condo in the Darnyts’kyi district of southeast Kyiv. He recently found out that his condo was close to a military base. 

He fears he might be returning to nothing and no one. Nayda quoted from the Sting song “Russians”: “There’s no such thing as a winnable war. It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore.”

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

M. Yayah Sandi

M. Yayah Sandi is a writer incarcerated in New Jersey. He requested that his first name be withheld.