We find ourselves thrust back into the 20th – or even the 19th – Century.
Maybe it’s just a European perspective, but countries invading other countries for no reason other than because they just fucking feel like it feels like an incredibly outdated concept. That’s what they did in the 1800s, the 1900s. In the 21st Century you’re just meant to do cyberwarfare, disinformation, meddle in elections and crush your (supposed) enemy economically. That’s just the first thing that’s so weird about Russia invading Ukraine.
I don’t want to get into a Twitter shouting contest with all the competing viewpoints out there, for me it’s a clear-cut and black and white issue: Putin’s regime sending troops into neighbouring Ukraine and then bombing the shit out of them when they don’t surrender immediately is 100 per cent wrong, end of.
And I don’t want to get into all the conspiracy theories either – but if you want links to debunk the most prominent ones, here they are:
- Ukraine is actually part of Russia / was created by Russia / isn’t really a proper country
- NATO promised back in the nineties not to expand further east and now they have and it’s all their fault (and by the way, a. Ukraine is not a part of NATO and has not been trying to join it and b. the reason why other East European countries who have joined NATO have done it not because they (or anyone else) want to attack Russia, but because they’re scared of Russia attacking them.
- Putin is right to protect the Donbas and Luhansk breakaway states
- And more…and more…and more…and more…and more
The Ukraine conflict has brought up so many emotions, and seems to have created a turning point for the EU, the sense of Europeans’ identity, putting up with autocrats doing what they want, and finally, finally confronting Putin’s mafia state and the implications of Russia’s oligarchs, sitting pretty in London, New York, Dubai and elsewhere – when they’re not sipping vodka on their superyachts.
While the prevailing emotions are of course distress and depression, at the same time there are things that have inspired hope in us. The way that the Ukrainians have got together and simply refused to give up is inspiring. A people that have committed to stand and fight for their homeland en masse is inspiring. And a political leader who, until very recently dismissed as ineffectual and far too inexperienced to lead his country against the might of Russia, has emerged as the embodiment of how you would hope that your president or prime minister or chancellor would react in a crisis of this sort. By not turning and running, and also not boasting, acting aggressively or puffing himself up in any way. That too is inspiring.
There are moments here that inspire hope in humankind. And acts of bravery that defy belief.
The border guards that tell the Russian warship aiming its guns at them to go fuck itself.
The man standing in the road refusing to get out of the way of a column of armoured vehicles rushing toward him.
The crowd of normal people who all leapt on or at a slow-moving Russian military vehicle, cursing the soldiers inside and beating against its windows and roof until it sped up and drove away.
The president that responds to the US’s offer to fly him out with “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
The road signs being changed to a. confuse the Russian soldiers and b. to tell them to fuck off back to Russia.
The little old woman standing facing up against a bunch of armed Russian soldiers telling them to put sunflower seeds in their pockets so that when they are inevitably killed in Ukraine something good will grow from them.
The sapper who laid charges on a bridge to stop the Russian advance blowing himself up with it because it was the only way.
The people gathering in towns across Ukraine to make molotov cocktails as a line of absolute last defence.
All the normal people, picking up guns – even when they’ve never shot one before – and preparing to fight to defend their country. The place where they live.
And of course the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, calmly and determinedly assuring his people night after night that they are in this together, that they will win this war, and that he is not going anywhere.
And last but not least, the brave people in Russia who go out onto the streets to demonstrate against this war, despite knowing that they won’t last ten minutes before they’re thrown in the back of a police van and from there into a jail cell.
And us? Sitting in the west? What can we do?
Here are some things we can do:
- Fight against online disinformation whenever and wherever you see it
- Donate: to charities helping refugees, to helping in Ukraine
- Especially if you’re in Berlin or Poland or similar: go to the main train station and find out when trains arrive carrying Ukrainian refugees. Even if you offer to translate, to tell them where to find services, or just to say hallo and welcome.
- Push your government to help and not to let up with helping, in any way you can
- If you have spare rooms, flats, anywhere where people can stay for a short period, offer them up
- More ideas? Please let me know in the comments or thru the contact form on our homepage (at the bottom)
And there’s more of course, there always is, but that’s for another time.
Featured image by Katie Godowski via pexels.com