GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) — On February 24, 2022, the people of Ukraine braced for impact as Russian forces began attacking.

Alex Gowen, founder and president of The Fishermen, arrived back in the United States on February 23, 2023, after his fourth trip to Ukraine since the first Russian attack. When he left, the mood in Ukraine shifted as the anniversary of the attack drew near.

“It was more somber. Whereas the Ukrainians are, generally speaking, very upbeat and happy people. Everybody started to remember what happened a year ago,“ Gowen said.

There is hope for a return to normalcy for the people of Ukraine, though. Now, one year later, Ukrainians are looking toward the future in hopes that it will bring an end to the war.

“You can see that they are starting to believe more in the end of the war. They can see it coming, finally,” he says.

Gowen said that many Ukrainians are making social media posts in remembrance of the day.

“A lot of people are putting up photographs and other memories, or photographs of candles,” Gowen said. “Sadness for yesterday, and hope for tomorrow.”

Ukrainian schools have switched to remote learning in most cases as well but in the instance that students are participating in in-person learning, many of the schools have “bomb shelters.”

“Everybody is fully prepared for anything that the Russians throw at them. Nothing really surprises them. Nothing really catches them off guard,” said Gowen.

”All of the schools have bomb shelters, even though they weren’t designed as bomb shelters,” Gowen said. “So if anything happens, they immediately evacuate and go to their designated shelter areas. Everybody’s got it down to, pretty much, a science. They know exactly where they need to go if the sirens start going off.”

Even though there has been much devastation in East Ukraine, the people are trying to continue on through power outages, cold weather and poor water conditions.

“Now, a year later, what you see is just life going on as normal as best as they possibly can,” says Gowen.

The Fishermen is a Greenville-based non-profit organization that focuses on recovery and relief efforts. Their focus is to provide education and healthcare to orphaned children worldwide.