The war that broke out between Ukraine and Russia on the 24th of February when Russian forces entered Ukraine is an ongoing tragedy that has shocked the world and kept many of us in fear. This war has ruined the lives of many and has forced millions of Ukrainian citizens to flee their homes. It has violated the basic human rights of an entire country and has left us in doubt about Europe’s peace in the 21st century.
This conflict is the most serious and devastating Europe has seen since the second world war and it has the potential to set up a clash of nuclear powers.
Seeing people defend the pure evil in this situation and overlook the suffering of millions of people has made me feel even stronger and more unapologetic about writing this essay.
To understand the current situation better we need to look at the history and past relations between Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine was a part of the Russian empire for centuries and used to be a part of the Soviet republic (USSR). In 1991 the USSR broke up and Ukraine became independent and started forming ties with the West (something other countries which were previously under Russian control also did). Nato says that relations between NATO and Ukraine date back to the 1990s.
The reason Russia seeks control over Ukraine is that since the fall of the USSR the West has been becoming more powerful.
Many countries which used to be part of or under the control of the USSR have strengthened ties with the West and joined NATO. Russia has not been able to court these countries, so now Russia, but more importantly Putin, sees Europe filling up with “enemies”.
In 2014 the annexation of Crimea took place which was followed by the invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2015.
What is at stake in Putin’s eyes is either fully invading Ukraine or the opportunity for Ukraine to join NATO. He has called for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.
This February 130,000 Russian troops gathered along the Ukrainian border, and the fear of a possible invasion began. All the worries and concerns of the USA over a possible invasion were called ‘hysteria’ by the Russian government. Just days before the actual invasion Russia claimed these rumors were Western propaganda and lied to everybody about their true intentions.
On February 24th Putin called for a ‘special military operation’ into Ukraine. He falsely claimed that the goal was “demilitarization and denazification” but not occupation. Shortly after this, the attacks started…
The USA, England, and other countries promised and delivered swift sanctions against Russia following the invasion, and since the start of the war neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary, and Romania have been taking in people fleeing Ukraine. Almost 4.9 million refugees have left Ukraine since February.
The war is becoming more and more dangerous and Russia has been bombarding major cities.
The global economy, inflation, and energy costs have been all largely affected by this current crisis.
Ukraine’s resistance has complicated things for Russia, and they have been making the seizure of their country very hard for the Russians.
During an interview with CNN, the president of Ukraine Volodimir Zelensky said that 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers have been killed and about 10,000 injured since the start of the invasion.
Amnesty International has said that the invasion of Ukraine is a manifest violation of the United Nations Charter and an act of aggression which is a crime under international law, and called for all those involved in this crime to be held accountable for these violations.
Human Rights have been violated on many different accounts, and according to the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and its Ukrainian partners there have been documented cases of enforced disappearances, and executions of journalists, human rights defenders, and representatives. Amnesty has also reported human rights violations and said that gender-based violence is also widespread.
It is now being reported that invading soldiers are raping Ukrainian women and children.
This war will cause lifelong trauma for millions. For the women being raped, the boys over 18 who have to go to war, families fleeing their country, people losing family members and friends, and witnessing the deaths of their fellow citizens.
When the war first broke out I immediately thought of the Ukrainian students that visited my class a few years ago whilst we were in high school, and who spent a week with us.
Yulia was the Ukrainian girl who lived with me and my family, and once the Russians attacked I got in touch with her as soon as possible. Yulia (aged 21) and her family are living in Kyiv and could not flee the country and were not even able to go to the nearest bomb shelter for safety when it was needed (The shelters were that full). Luckily they are ‘Okay’ but, like the whole country, they are in constant fear and worry. Of course, my family and I have let them know that they can stay with us but due to safety concerns, they cannot leave the country.
Before the war broke out Yulia was working in the fashion and film industry as a makeup artist. She shared with me some of her feelings and the things she experienced since the war broke out:
“Well, the first month I now can recall very poorly. I just remember being stressed, and distinctly remember a moment of relief when I found out my best friend escaped one of the most dangerous places in the Kyiv region at the time. Back then there was a constant threat to the capital.
Now, two months since the beginning of a full-scale war, it’s a little calmer here, the city begins very slowly to come alive. There isn’t an immediate threat, except missile attacks, but nowhere in Ukraine is safe in regards to those. However, the news is still grim and dark. The horrors that occur on occupied territories, the filtration camps, the forced deportation of around 500 000 Ukrainians, 121 000 are children. Especially news from Mariupol. These are the most heartbreaking.
We don’t really know how long the war will last, but every Ukrainian is sure the victory is ours.”
She also shared with me her initial reaction to the war:
”Well most of us assumed it was gonna happen sometime soon. Cause Russian-Ukrainian conflict has lasted for 8 years now. So when it started one of my thoughts where “Finally, let’s get this down and over with”.
We weren’t panicking, our emotions just shut off. That is just trauma response, I read that later.”
To hear about the things Yulia (and millions of others) are experiencing is extremely heartbreaking and scary. Here is what she said about the trauma she and her family endured:
“When there are air raid alerts we hide in corridors and pray for the best. Each night when we go to sleep there is always a thought that we just can’t wake up in the morning”.
She explained the differences she sees between the war tactics of Ukraine and Russia.
“It is really important to know that Russians use very inhumane and forbidden tactics. And forbidden ammunition. They are wiping whole towns and villages. And they won’t give green corridors to provide humanitarian help.
There is a really big difference in how Russia treats its people vs how Ukraine does. In Russia, they deny that more than 9000 of their troops are already dead. They got mobile cremation stations on their border. So they’re just making people disappear.
Ukraine on the other hand does everything it can to inform and give some closure to RUSSIAN families. A site was created, later put down by the Kremlin, and a hotline where Russian families could find out what was happening to their loved ones. When Russians are surrendering, our people give them medical attention and a chance to call home.”
Since the start of the war, I and Yulia have been messaging each other back and forth, so I can always know what’s going on with her.
I would have never thought that in the 21st century I and a girl my age would be talking about the likeliness of her and her family’s home being bombed. It is surreal in the most sorrowful and frightening way possible. Europe has not experienced such serious conflict since the second world war.
I want to now share some personal thoughts and feelings on the matter of this war. When I see people in the world make excuses for the obvious aggressor it truly makes me question our world. The right-wing thinkers who are trying to excuse Putin’s behavior whilst blaming the obvious victims are excusing the death of innocent civilians. Those who are making fun of Zelensky and finding his past relevant in any way when it comes to this matter should feel ashamed of their lack of compassion towards a leader and a nation that is being destroyed by an evil dictator. The fact that people are busy blasting their anti-Zelensky rhetoric instead of standing by a nation where innocent people are being murdered is disgusting and a disgrace.
When a country faces a devastating and traumatizing humanitarian crisis like this war I truly believe it is all of our problem and concern. I can understand the fear of military intervention but compassion is our responsibility as people.
It’s also crucial to remember that Putin also keeps many of the people in Russia in fear and living in Putin’s regime is in itself a scary and painful burden.
It’s important to also mention that other countries in the world are currently facing war. There are lives across the globe being destroyed by war, which, as always, has a huge financial cost. Money that in every case could serve a better purpose in a world still filled with issues such as poverty, hunger, and inequality.
Although for many the concept of world peace seems idealistic (and it very well may be) we also have to realize the long-term and serious consequences of war and what they can mean for countries.
I want to quote the Dalai Lama ‘No soldiers want to be wounded or die. None of his loved ones wants any harm to come to him. If one soldier is killed or maimed for life, at least another five or ten people – his relatives and friends – suffer as well. We should all be horrified by the extent of this tragedy, but we are too confused’
During these times let’s all keep the people of Ukraine in our thoughts and hearts!
Meet the Author:
Hi! My name’s Zoe Zahorák, I’m an Hungarian political science student.
I’m interested in politics and different social and economic issues for example child poverty.
My Instagram page @speakupbyzoe is dedicated to inspire generation Z to speak up on different issues.
I also have a blog and I have one introduction essay so for but have lots of ideas that I want to write about!