We hear the news. Russian tanks are building up outside Ukraine. An invasion threatens, dissected and analysed by the dailies, dismissed by top experts, even Russian ambassadors. What most do not know, this has been looming for some time.
However, as is so often the case, the unthinkable happens and Ukraine is savagely violated. But in light of Putin’s comments over the years, it was actually inevitable.
Each day is worse. Covid goes off the radar, replaced with grim videos, photos and accounts of the Ukraine ingression. Criminal bombing, murder and rape of this sovereign country and its people dominate every headline. Also their surprising push-back.
We feel helpless. We feel guilty to be in such a better place than there. What do we do? We hang onto the words of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy who seems to be a hero of sorts. We look at the emotionless face of Putin, wondering if he has had so much surgery it cannot move anymore, or if he is just insane. The truth is he always has been insane, but only now the politicians hint at it. There was a time that he was feted in Hollywood. Hard to fathom now.
Insanity aside, he is immoral and heartless. This seems to be an historical Russian training at the top – in total odds with the country’s great culture. It beggars belief that someone can order the destruction of civilian housing and institutes, including maternity and children hospitals, then claim they were empty or occupied by the Ukraine military. Did they not see the gigantic letters written in the ground either end? Children? The list of destruction is unpalatable. It is with relief that the horrors are scattered with token stories of escape, some hope – even a child singing in the Kyiv metro above the distress goes viral.
Untrained non-Ukrainian men rush to join the fight against the enemy, an enemy that in fact is just Putin and his kleptocratic band. They are mostly turned away at the Polish border, at risk of their own death and more problems for Ukraine. In some aspects, I am reminded of the civil war in Spain. An endless trail of men going to fight for freedom and democracy, so many clueless, unarmed youth that largely ended up in hastily shovelled unmarked graves.
The Mail asks for donations, but where will they go? A selection of charities, they write. Charities that already have tarnished reputations with huge sums filtered to directors, and little to the cause at hand? Medicine sans frontieres – a good cause – but already with billions in the bank to “be on the frontline when needed”? People offer rooms for free to refugees. It is so little. It is something. That is if they can get around the red tape of visas…
In our little village an appeal for basics to help the refugee camps at the polish border arrives via the Ayuntamiento’s Whatsapp notifications. A truck is coming soon. Quickly a small group of us English immigrants with the nickname “egg and chips” empty our houses of coats and blankets, anything we think might help. We also donate our kitty – meant to finance a book of “Lockdown recipes”. One of us takes it into town to buy key necessities. Nappies, wipes, antiseptic, bandages, dry food. A small gesture, but something concrete.
The book can wait. Unlike the Ukrainians. Can Europe wait? In fact, can the world close its eyes anymore, thinking only of oil and gas and money?
I speak of the leaders here. Sometimes I think they are ALL criminals. One of the advantages of being a nobody like me is that I can get away with saying these words, unlike Biden who is universally criticized when he called for Putin’s removal in an unguarded emotional, human moment.
In the meantime, the war in Syria rages on. Many other wars too. I ask myself why we are somewhat inured to them, but so distressed by Ukraine? Dare I speak the unspeakable? The Ukrainians are more like us. The invasion is very close to home. I am not a racist, but these terrible wars all over the world are overload. In fact, Ukraine is becoming overload already. How many photos of destroyed buildings and dead bodies can we bear to look at anymore?
How much more guilt can we feel for not being there?
My mother and father lived through WWII and brought me up with tales of its horrors. From ages 5 to 7 I regularly woke up screaming due to graphic nightmares about the gas camps. They assured me this would never happen again and with time I normalised. In the meantime, Europe got too used to thinking that there would never be a World War III. At least not in its grounds. The rest of this globe was somehow side-lined.
We civilians do not really know anything more than a small fraction of what goes on. One thing I feel is that most of mankind is intrinsically good. Sadly, there exists a small core of evil that is so potent it wipes out almost everything else. This core of evil grows with injustice. I urge every non-politician to try and make a difference and push against the wrong. It is all we can do. Give what you can. Do what you are able to. At the very least, it will assuage your guilt and at the same time, hopefully, help one or more victims of a politician’s war; Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan. The shortlist. Take your pick. But I think I know which war end will end the soonest…
A few links – not putting any horror ones.