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Why do we have to fight: writers and journalists who are in the military talk about Ukrainian independence24.08.2023
What are we fighting for: writers and journalists who are in the military talking about independence and the battle that continues three hundred years
Ten writers and journalists who are in the military talk about Independence Day and the war for freedom
A year and a half of a full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine has sharpened every Ukrainian’s understanding of what independence means — how the previous generations of Ukrainians fought for it and the price we are forced to pay now. In the first days of the full-scale invasion, we were strong enough to smash Putin’s wish to “finally resolve the Ukrainian issue” to pieces. Unfortunately, it will take more than a few months to regain every meter of our land, strengthen our state and finally separate ourselves from the colonial past.
We asked writers and journalists who are now defending our independence about one of our most decisive battles, why it is important to continue the struggle without feeling too much of either despondency or euphoria, what is waiting for us after this phase of the war and how to build the Ukrainian future.
Writer, junior lieutenant of Armed Forces of Ukraine
Right now our nation and state are at the last stage of the long battle for our freedom in which previous heroic generations of Ukrainians took part. It was much more difficult for them than it is for us now — they were all alone against this huge and insane monster. We need to be aware of the burden of responsibility that is on us all. And this responsibility forces us to move towards the aim with perseverance despite all current hardships. It is a battle for life for us. A fight against the world of death, because the “Russian world” brings to the world nothing but destruction, murder and grief.
Independence Day in this context matters even more — it is the day we mark the meaning of our freedom, the things we love doing the most, and our life. It is a day when the great past, present and future of Ukraine are united in one symbolic and continuous sequence we all understand without words.
Our struggle for freedom, independence and our territories coincided with yet another continuous process: Mordor’s role on the world stage is fading. That is why there is such agony, cruelty and fanaticism in the “swamps” — they are condemned to a steady decline. They have been often calling themselves a separate civilization but the truth is they are a civilization with a naked butt. In the eyes of the whole world this looter, rapist, murderer, thief of a civilization has already lost. The Russian train has long since gone off the track and is still running by inertia, crushing everything in its path.
We have one future. Despite all the suffering and losses, Ukraine will never be in the orbit of the northern swamp again. It is only a matter of time when Ukraine joins the European Union and NATO. The current policy is a bit of a mess, after which different algorithms will function. This is what we are actually fighting for. Every one of us, doing the best we can. Everyone in their place.
Journalist, writer, ZSU military
Our struggle today is the same as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow: they still want to eliminate us, take away our country, freedom and future. Our struggle is an effort to survive, a willingness to die today to be able to live tomorrow. We are fighting for our right to be ourselves. We are fighting to prevent our falling into an empire that only wants to conquer us and, ultimately, have us dissolved in it.
It is hard to predict what happens next. I think it is important to remember that we may fail in this attempt to survive. We may lose the country and the opportunity to rebuild it the way we want it to be. That is we must accept the reality now, without lulling ourselves to sleep with mantras like “the next vacation in Crimea” or “a worthless, incapable enemy of ours.” We must not allow the growing fatigue to plunge us into apathy and search for simple solutions. Albus Dumbledore said once: “Harry, we’re in a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” So if we have already chosen the right thing, we cannot afford to change our minds and stop fighting.
Journalist, military of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade named after the Black Zaporozhians
This war is a historical chance for Ukraine to finally fight back against Russia, to get away from its orbit and sphere of interest. This is an existential issue because the very existence of Ukraine and Ukrainians is at stake now. The war will not end in “two-three weeks at most.” We should not fool ourselves or calm ourselves down with unrealistic forecasts. We need to realize that this is a marathon. The counteroffensive is not a reality show. Anyone who is not satisfied with its pace can personally join the Ukrainian Defense Forces and show how to fight.
We are fighting not even for a better future for Ukraine but for Ukraine to actually exist. Every soldier has a different motivation and yet it is similar in general. We are defending our families, our homes, our country. We do this because our conscience tells us to do so, out of inner conviction, without even hoping for gratitude.
There is some discontent in the army because of the people who got “tired of war”, a part of society for whom the war is either over or has not even begun. The fear of the first months of the full-scale invasion is gone now, and people have relaxed. Sometimes you hear a question at the front: “Who and what are we fighting for?” However, deep down inside I think every one of us knows who and what we are here for.
Ukraine of the future, Ukraine after our victory, we want to see Ukraine as a fair, civilized and European country. But let’s not hope that that kind of Ukraine will be built by those men and women who’d be lucky enough to return from the front. Nothing prevents the figurative “rear” from changing the country for the better right now, at least within their own neighborhood, home or city.
Writer, ZSU military
It is critically important to keep the balance. To find a balance between the “victorious” narratives in the news and realistic evaluation of the situation. Between fatigue and duty. Between lack of faith and a hope that everything will be fine.
Every one of us is a tightrope walker over the city square today. Despite your fear you can move further on, or get scared and fall down.
Ukraine in the future is a strong, well-armed country that has learned the lessons of the past because we don’t want our children to have to clean up the mess we had to deal with.
Literary scholar, senior lieutenant ZSU
Unfortunately, Ukraine still has to prove its right to exist to the world at the cost of much blood. Despite all the civilizational changes, we are being pushed out of these civilizational processes. We are being observed, they give us advice and teach us something, and yet we’re kept at a distance, with sympathy and encouragement not to fall into despair. But our feeling of despair is growing: both among civilians and the military.
There are fewer of us. New faces appear alongside, like shadows, because we can’t memorize any of them. These faces are situational, and tomorrow there will be new ones, swallowed up by darkness again. And you become like a shadow yourself, because you realize that you were lucky again, that you survived again — and then there is no time for reflection. One day is like a life you were gifted, and you want to live it as if it were your last. And then you are happy to have just another…
There’s this certain feeling of fatalism, especially after an unsuccessful assault, when you lose many of your people and realize that a few kilometers of field bathed in the blood of your comrades are, perhaps, a price too high to pay. But there is no other way out — we have to move forward, even if only a few meters, but forward.
I, unfortunately, have no optimistic hopes for the future. I think there will be lots of resentment, revenge, despair and unfulfilled expectations. But there still will be a faith, at least in me, that the historical mission entrusted to us and your every step — is a step toward freedom and yourself. Because what we are living now is the truth of life — to be yourself. Otherwise how do you live?
Poet, signalman of the 68th “Oleksa Dovbush” Jaeger Brigade
Ukrainians are being overwhelmed by one process: asking questions and demanding answers from someone, and it can take decades. But circumstances force our generation to give answers here and now, and there is no one else to ask. The question is very simple: will the Ukrainian state exist? Within what borders, with what social structure, fundamental values and vector of development? This is the goal of our struggle — for us to be able to answer these questions, not the enemy.
The further from the front you are, the more it seems that these questions have long been replied: as if we are already spending holidays in the Crimea, have already returned the territories we had since 1991, have joined the EU and NATO, and so on. But things that seem to be foregone to the viewer of the “victorious TV-shows” are completely uncertain in reality. Reality is determined by those who realize that there are still no answers, they must be obtained, and honestly: by paying a high price because our freedom and our state are, unfortunately, extremely expensive.
Our struggle today is a struggle for freedom: the freedom to determine our own future, the freedom to have our state, the freedom to create our own culture in it. It is a struggle for the independence of the state in which everyone will be able to be personally independent: to have opportunities and space for life, work, creativity and happiness. Otherwise can we be happy in captivity?
So, in the end, it is a struggle for a free state and personal happiness — that of your children and compatriots, if not your own.
Poet, volunteer of ZSU
Our struggle today is a necessity, an instinct and a reflex, conditioned and unconditioned.
It’s either you or them. We are fighting for peace, calmness and the sky with charter planes and migratory birds. This fight is collective and deeply personal for me. I see the Ukraine of the future. This is the most important thing now.
Writer, volunteer, ZSU military
Our struggle today is a continuation of that centuries-long struggle against colonization, which we, unfortunately, lost so often. We have a chance to finally win this war now, and finally reach full decolonization from Russia.
Vitaliy Chepynoga recently wrote he had seen two girls talking to Cossacks in the village but these Cossacks had jeeps instead of horses now. This also speaks a lot. We are really continuing to do what we have been doing for three hundred years. I think that the history of this struggle, which has not always been successful, illustrates a drastic difference between us and Russia. The main things we have been associating ourselves with were the Cossacks and the Liberation Movement, while they associated themselves with the “great state” and the tsarism. That is why we are so different. And now we have a chance to finally prove this to ourselves and shed the remnants of influences and nuances that have lingered from three hundred years of colonization.
Poet, military of the 95th Air Assault Brigade
On Feb. 24, 2022, Russians have officially decided to take away our right for life. Then they murdered tens of thousands of Ukrainians, deprived hundreds of thousands of their homes and ruined the lives of millions. Russians have destroyed dozens of Ukrainian cities and villages, Russians are destroying the Ukrainian environment. Russians kidnap Ukrainian children and carry out mass deportations of Ukrainians. Russians continue to commit genocide against the Ukrainian people and destroy Ukrainian culture. Russians hate us all and want us all to die. Russians do not mind attacking us with weapons of mass destruction. I think that’s a reason enough to hate and constantly kill f#cking Russians.
If somebody — till Aug. 24 2023 — hasn’t yet understood it: we are fighting to survive physically. And this fight concerns everyone. Personally I have my own “axe to grind with Russians — I am a part of the Executed Renaissance. Russians, just like a hundred years ago, kill Ukrainian poets. And doing so they kill a part of me too. Russians are killing my friends, both men and women, my comrades, both men and women.
There’s one more: I cannot return home because of Russians, I do not belong to myself, my life is on a pause. Because of Russians, my beloved is far away, and I can’t bring a child into this world. Children. It’s all about children, quite logically. Because children are the future, they should not fight. We shouldn’t either, of course, but there’s nothing we can do about it: we inherited this war from our parents. And not to pass it on to our children, we can’t screw it up. That’s for sure now.
Writer, the Head of the Press Service of the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War
It’s simple as this: if we do not fight, we will be murdered, robbed, raped. It concerns not only us but also our children and all our future generations. They will burn our libraries, destroy our cultural heritage and turn our museums into Russian ones. We’ve seen it all, and not just once.
This phase of the struggle is so important because there have already been attempts to erase our national identity in the past but it is our generation that is facing such a frank, unambiguous and vivid genocidal wish to destroy us. I am inspired by the number of people who have joined this struggle and who are using skills, experience, energy, talent, both physical and mental power not just for their own interests but to defend the country, kill the enemy and make sure Russians can’t influence our lives and destroy us as human beings, as a nation, as a people.
Unfortunately, there will be no ten meter high wall on the border between Ukraine and Russia, no oceans and seas, our neighbors will remain. My job is to deal with prisoners of war. And they look just like us. Each of them is an ordinary person. And this is the worst thing because these “ordinary people” came here to kill us. It’s like a zombie apocalypse, only more terrifying, because it doesn’t last like a movie — an hour and a half. It lasts for years, decades and centuries.
I would like to think that this is a turning point, that everything will be resolved and there will be some kind of a final victory. But I realize that, unfortunately, it will not be like that. Our ultimate goal is to join NATO, we need to join this security umbrella. It will be a very necessary and important end to this aggression. Then we can breathe for a while. But not to relax but to build up the army. Because, as we see, no one will come to defend us but ourselves. We must have a strong army, a strong economy and a cultural and information space isolated from the enemy. Our struggle today is just a phase. This is one of those decisive battles we have no right to lose.
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