On February 24, exactly one year ago, Russia launched the largest-scale war in Europe since World War II. It attacked Ukraine. The invasion made me, a born Ukrainian, move to Europe. And while I was here, I noticed that ordinary people who do not study politics, and who do not work in related fields, do not fully understand how huge, destructive, and serious this war is. The territorial principle is noticeable because the closer the countries are to Ukraine, the more concerned they are, and the further away the less (at the civilian level, not the political and diplomatic level). Poland, with which Ukraine has had wars in the past (the Polish-Ukrainian War (1918-1919), the Volyn tragedy), let’s say did not have good relations, to put it mildly. Nowadays, you can see Ukrainian flags everywhere, on government buildings, and in various cafes, bars, and restaurants, which is an initiative of private individuals. And the support in Western Europe, among the civilian population, is much less, and in some places, on the contrary, in favor of Russia. This is surprising. As here, in Spain, the support for Ukraine is not that huge, I want to tell firsthand about how 365 days of war influenced the country.
To understand how sudden and unexpected the war was, you can watch a YouTube video where a poll was conducted a week before the war started. The survey was about whether Ukrainians believed at the beginning of the war. It was conducted in some of the most Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine – Kyiv and Odesa. The way people answer in this video completely refutes Russian propaganda. Anyone with a “cotton wool” brain should be able to understand at least something after watching this video. The people in this video say that they do not want war and that Russia would never attack Ukraine because they consider it a fraternal state (although there is nothing fraternal about it, the unity and similarity of Ukrainians and Russians is an invention of Russian propaganda since the 1910s, although this is another topic).
“Do you believe that Russia will attack Ukraine?” the interviewer asked.
“No, I don’t believe that. I understand that Putin has his own problems in his head, like every human being, like me and like you. But he’s not crazy. You see, first of all, it gives him nothing. He says that Kyiv is the cradle of this common homeland. “We are one people,” and he’s going to bomb the same people? He’s not a crazy kid,” replied the interviewee.
Although this old man’s opinion is quite propagandistic about the fraternal peoples, he states the view of many people, no one could believe that there was going to be a war. I remember talking to my friends on February 22 about whether the invasion would start. I said that “There will be no war, and Putin is only bluffing, why does he need a war? He is pumping oil, building Nord Stream 2, and he will continue to pump oil and gas to Europe.” How wrong I was.
After the invasion began, I moved from Kyiv to my hometown, which is in the west. There I immediately went to the volunteer center. During the month and a half I worked there, I was able to feel and see people who really experienced the war. Although I saw it partially myself when I left Kyiv – the military hardware, the panic of people, the atmosphere of the apocalypse, sirens, explosions. While volunteering, I was able to understand what these people who were leaving from the east, north, and south felt. First of all, what happened to them was terrible. They were thrown out of their homes, their plans and dreams were destroyed, and what they had been saving for a long time, building “stone by stone” was destroyed or stolen. It doesn’t matter what, they just don’t and won’t have it anymore.
And even more frightening, what are they going to do next? Not just their past, but their future has been stolen from them. There was a case when older people from small villages, 60-80 years old, who had just arrived from there, with absolutely nothing, came to our volunteer center. What were they supposed to do? People of this category have always had a hard time in Ukraine. Pensions – particularly low, despite this they still had at least some property, their own garden with food to feed themselves, some kind of household. But now they don’t have that anymore. Now this grandmother or grandfather, who was uprooted from their homes, was brought here. How to go on living? Of course, they will not starve, they will always be helped. But the very fact of what they had to go through is just cruel. There are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of people like them. And what about young people, young lives which have not yet “matured”? And how many children? All because some sick idiot conceived it all. Though, I would not like to personify the guilt of only one person, because I do not believe that Putin is the only one to blame.
Before the war started, I was studying at the University of International Relations in Kyiv, and I loved this city with all my heart. Last April, I left Ukraine when I was under 18 and applied to study at IE University. Of course, my former university cannot be compared to IE University, although I loved it. These universities have different levels of quality of education, which I think Ukraine should reach, and I am sure it will. I am glad that I am studying here, though in such difficult circumstances. My story is not that bad either, because a lot of good things happened to me during this time as well. But thinking about it, I realize that someone’s situation is absolutely terrible, someone has lost their parents, loved ones, relatives, and people important to them. Hometown, home…
On the one hand, fate gave me a gift, and on the other hand, it gave me an irreparable tragedy. Sometimes we have no control over our fate, sometimes we have to act as fate wills us. Fate decreed the lives of millions of Ukrainians. After one year of the war, they are scattered all over the world, not knowing what else life is preparing for them.
Featured image: UNICEF/UN0770704/Filippov. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/war-ukraine-pose-immediate-threat-children