What I Know About War in Ukraine

Read at HuffPost UK here.

I will tell you something. Except this time, it will be more than “Fuck Putin” and “No to dictatorship”.

I’ll tell you what I know about war in Ukraine, and life there. Some of you will scream “you are not there!” and that’s right, I’m not in Ukraine but in France, and the war is not where I am but in Ukraine. However, as are all Ukrainians, I’m living this war too, even though I’m far away from it. It’s like a long-distance relationship, and I know those very well. For years, I have had long-distance relationships with my family and friends, and now with my country and the war that is taking place there.

My last talk on Skype with my parents, they informed me of the ongoing rumours and fears in my native town of Kherson in Southern Ukraine, chief among which is that the terrorists are planning to enter the region. In the last few days, drones have been appearing around the city and in the whole region. The information was corroborated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and by some journalists as well. But for now, it’s just a fear.

Through my iPad’s screen, my mother showed me a small metal box where they regrouped all the important documents they would need to take if suddenly terrorists entered the city and they had to run away. She said everyone is doing this now. Jokingly, I warned her that if the war started they would have to run immediately instead of sitting in the house and praying, as some of our relatives same as many Ukrainians would do, as this doesn’t help anyone survive. She laughed. They described to me the common feeling of not knowing what will happen on the next day. Everyone is sharing news of friends or relatives who were killed or disappeared in the east. Very recently, some terrorists entered several cities and shot many civilians. Ukrainian authorities also announced that about 1009 civilians were kidnapped by the separatists in the east to demand ransoms or to force them to fight against the Ukrainian army.

The Ukrainian army is also recruiting very actively in order to get more people to free the occupied zones of Eastern Ukraine. As I was saying in media at the beginning of the military conflict, Ukraine had no army ready for war, and this is the reason why the general mobilisation that was enacted is touching every second Ukrainian man. My 47 years old uncle was summoned by the military to be sent to the conflict area by the Ukrainian national army. By the next few days, he will be taken to the East of Ukraine to fight. Honestly, my uncle was never involved in the army; all his life he has been driving big trucks all around Ukraine. I still remember how happy I was as a child to be taken with him on a short distance trip in his huge car usually full of building materials. I guess now he will have to drive vehicles full of military equipment.

Apart from those being called to serve in the army, there are still many volunteers wanting to reach the battlefields. One of my friends recently appeared in the Ukrainian news holding a Kalashnikov and giving an interview as the commander of a military section. It’s both surprising and frightening. He is a 50 years old intellectual man who used to work in the government a few years ago when I was still in Ukraine. Sometimes sending me short messages, he is saying “war is death, but who else if not us?” The last message was a promise to meet me soon in Paris for a coffee, as he seems full of hope that the war will be over soon. Of course, what else can make you fight besides hope?

In the meantime, politicians are imposing sanctions and holding meetings, believing that they will find a solution to the ongoing crisis. Ukrainian citizens are losing hope and expressing their disappointment about the newly elected president and the remaining team of corrupt politicians. And now everything looks even more complicated. Russia is delivering new vehicles and weaponry to the terrorists and shooting at airplanes meanwhile officially denying it. Ukraine had hope that the EU sanctions would stop Putin, but he took his own sanctions to the world in order to hit back, even though it might impact Russian economy and his own citizens that are more and more blindly supporting him, being pleased by the idea of a strong nation, especially since they annexed Crimea. Putin will not stop the war, he will keep moving towards it. He wants a chapter in history books with his name and for him “après nous le déluge.”

What’s left now? Not stepping back, as he will not. The EU and US have to impose more sanctions, and more again if needed. This is obviously not a war for Ukraine; this is a war for global political leadership that Putin is seeking. Ukrainian politicians have to keep searching for agreements and demand punishments towards the Russian Federation according to international laws. The Ukrainian army must continue to fight terrorism and free the occupied zones. And hopefully the Ukrainian people will not stop mobilising against Ukraine’s corrupt political system. And other peoples? I hope they won’t be apolitical. as my fellow Ukrainians were for a while. Political ignorance is creating opportunities for oppressive regimes, just as it has in Ukraine.

During that same Skype conversation, my father said: “I would never have thought that there could have been a war in our country.” After a short pause he adds: “Maybe this is why there is a war now”.

Let’s not be ignorant, let’s not allow them to make more wars!

Slava Ukraine!

Inna Shevchenko | TEDxKalamata

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