One of the most magical things about the Final Fantasy XIV community is that it’s truly global. We have players across the globe, each bringing their own perspectives and experiences to the game. Hell, with the addition of the new Oceanic servers, many of our fellow players in Australia and the broader Austronesian regions can double weave with proper ping for the first time.
This also means that the realities of the world stretch beyond FFXIV itself. Jessica St. John, also known to fans as ZeplaHQ, is one of the better known streamers and YouTube creators in the community. While she was born in the United States, she currently lives in Kyiv (Kiev), the capital of Ukraine. And she’s in the middle of the growing political crisis in the region.
Russia has stationed a number of troops along the border to Ukraine, threatening an invasion and military takeover of the region. This has been an ongoing crisis since early 2021, when Russia moved soldiers and equipment near the border for the first time, only to escalate with the mobilization of 100,000 troops later in the year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declined to stand down despite ongoing talks with NATO. US President Joe Biden recently approved the deployment of 3,000 troops to bolster NATO in Poland, Germany, and Romania. The issue for those living in Ukraine is that they don’t know if or when the conflict could become hostile.
In a stream in late January, Zepla gave her perspective on the events. “I don’t know how the situation is going to develop further,” she said. “There may come a day, soon, where I may need to reach out to the community for help.”
She went on to describe the situation from the point of view of the average citizen. “Now people everywhere where I live are scared because of the buildup of troops all along the border,” she said on stream.
While she has family back in the United States, the issue for Zepla is two-fold. First, there’s the logistics of being able to safely transport her pets. Documentation is needed to move her cat and dog internationally, and Ukraine is considered to be a high-risk country for rabies. In the stream, she mentioned that, after some research, she might not be able to get her dog out of the country until the summer.
“I don’t want to leave them behind in what could potentially be a war zone,” she recently told Waypoint in an interview. “I don’t know when I would be able to get back to them again. What if the person watching them wants to evacuate as well? It’s just too many question marks.”
Second, she’s built a life in the region. She came in 2014 as an English teacher and has lived in Ukraine since. Zepla owns a home there and has many friends who live nearby as well. It’s difficult to potentially leave all that behind. “I want to be wrong about all this, and I’m hoping that I’m wrong about all this,” she explained on the stream. “I’m prepping now. I’m getting my ’bug-out’ bag ready.”
In the stream and Waypoint interview, Zepla stressed that she’s not trying to fearmonger — she’s merely letting folks know about the situation from her point of view. For her, it’s a real threat that could come at any time, and she needs to prepare for that possibility. Despite that, she continues to stream FFXIV and release videos on her YouTube channel. In fact, if she has to leave, she plans to keep streaming the game.
“I plan to continue streaming as much as possible,” Zepla told Waypoint. “I’ll be stopping at Airbnbs and hotels, and I will stream the whole way.”
It’s difficult to move one’s life, especially in the middle of a crisis and global pandemic. Hopefully, the situation de-escalates so that Zepla, and others in similar positions, can remain in their homes safe and sound.