I have been not writing for a few months because when Russia invaded Ukraine, I was speechless. Not just speechless, it was like a nightmare. Every day when I wake up, I feel as if it was a bad dream until I read more news, and see pictures, and talk to my family and friends. I lived all my childhood in Ukraine, everyone from my father’s side is from Ukraine. My grandparents, relatives and friends are still there. Every day I see pictures of what once was a beautiful country completely destroyed. What is happening is absolutely horrifying. However, I am not going to ‘break it down’ what is happening or why it is happening. This blog is above politics.
There is another side to everything. And what I do not like is using aggression of one country as an excuse for aggression towards every member of another nation. The people who were fighting against racism say nothing when the same discriminatory behaviour now applied to a different group. This is not okay. If you tell me that I am responsible for decisions of my Prime Minister/President, I will tell you that you are crazy, unless I actually work as an adviser to that leader. But somehow it seems okay in the world to discriminate everything and everyone Russian because of the actions and decisions of their leader. It is just as silly. There were many conflicts in 20th century and I do not think American students were kicked out of European universities simply for being born/raised American, even though USA did get involved in Iraq, Libya, Vietnam and many other countries. Russian people are not allowed to enter some restaurants in Germany. Do you know when was the last time when this kind of behavior has occurred before? Against Jewish people just before Second World War. Think about what happened next.
You would think that humanity would have learnt the lessons after two world wars that killed so many innocent people, destroying millions of lives. Again, I am not picking sides here but it is important to understand that responding on aggression with more aggression is NOT the way to make the world a better place. Doing this will only lead to more violence and innocent people suffering, or worst, to a global conflict or a third world war. My grandmother told me how during the second world war, even though her own father joined the army to fight against Germans, the Germans occupied the village where her family was located. It was just women, old people and children in the village. All their cows, sheep and other animals that kept them from hunger were taken away by German forces. The Germans even took over some of the houses. However, despite all the horror that has been happening during the second world war, my grandmother remembers young German soldier that would give chocolate to the kids (my grandmother was about 6 when the war started). Not every person is bad, even if their background is from the same country as ‘the aggressor’. No one has a power to choose where they are born, and no one should be discriminated against something they have no control over like their skin colour or nationality.
My grandmother in Ukraine is 86 years old. She can barely walk and she is looking after her husband of 63 years, my grandfather who is also very sick. They are in a small Ukrainian town currently occupied by Russia. The town with a nuclear power plant. Which means, if there is going to be an armed fight, regardless what side will cause it, if the nuclear power plant explodes it will be 10 times worse than Chernobyl. Let me tell you about their situation. In a town of about 50,000 people only 3 stores sell some food, and they do it for cash only. No pharmacy has any drugs and no medical drugs of any kind can pass through the new established borders to the town. Most of the food being sold is brought by people from nearby villages, which means only farmers sell their produce and their food is seasonal. Keep it mind it is only early April and no crops have been there to pick up yet. The banks give out only small amounts in cash and no store accepts credit card. My grandparents received their pension but they cannot pick it up because they have been placed 1500s on the list. It means there are 1499 people that bank will serve before them. When they get to the bank, you know how much cash they are allowed to withdraw this month? $33 american dollars. This is not a joke. Every time I talk to my grandparents, I need about a week to regain my composure and not have anxiety before I can call again. It is really hard.
When, after hearing bombs and sirens all around the town and learning that Russian forces took over the nuclear power plant and then the city, the first issue for my grandparents was obtaining access to food. There was nothing left on the shelves in the stores. Then some bakeries began sending bread to the store. The store gives only two loaves of bread per family and to get the loaves you need to stand in line for half of the day. My grandparents survived second world war and now going through this. But you know what people learned from this experience? It would not be aggression, blame or sadness. They continue spreading kindness. Back to the loaves of bread – my grandmother cannot stand for half of the day in line so she did not go to the store to get the bread. Her neighbour (not the next house neighbour, they live in a 9 floor apartment building so she did not know the neighbour well), spent half of his day waiting in line for bread to bring it to my grandparents, and then went back to stand in line to get bread for his own family. For my birthday, my grandmother made small sweet pies and shared them with the neighbours and friends. My cousin’s wife migrated to the west of Ukraine with her young child from Kiev, when her boss called and offered her to go to Czech Republic with his daughter and her children together for safety. A young man who is a son of my parent’s friends regularly brings food to my grandparents and even fixes their internet. They thank him with other types of food they have. Kindness creates a boomerang effect and it will come back to the person who started the chain reaction.
It is true that wars and crisis bring out the true nature in people. Make sure that what the difficult situations bring in you is kindness towards others, only then there will be hope for the better future. Of course, I am wishing for this war and any other armed conflict that is happening right now to end. But once it ends, we would have to live in the new world that we have created or left to remain. If you are kind towards somebody or help at least one person a day, that would be a day worth living. The world of kindness and compassion is the world that needs to remain. Kindness is the best legacy we can create.