A diary chronicling the hopes, pain and fears of ordinary Ukrainians collected during the current war. Frank, emotional and straight from the heart.
This book is about the first 100 days of fascist Russia’s perfidious and unfounded invasion of Ukraine. But it is not an account of the war and its battlefield engagements. It's about people. About their feelings and emotions, their experiences, fears and pain, their suffering, hope and love.
I started writing this book one sleepless night in Kyiv when I had been kept awake all night by the roar of our aerial defense system and explosions nearby, listening out for approaching rockets and bombs and wondering whether I should take my wife and young son and run for the air-raid shelter. That night, I realized that I had a duty as a writer to act as a voice for those whose stories desperately needed to be told to other people in the world.
I wrote about what I saw and felt. About the stories, my relatives and friends shared with me. It became a chronicle, memoir, diary and confession. I set down our stories so that the whole world might know and understand what we have been through. So that the whole world might share our experiences of this war alongside us – in our trembling buildings, in our freezing cold basements, underground parking lots, bomb shelters and metro stations and in the ruins of our burning cities. So that the world might be given a glimpse into our hearts through the lacerated wounds that have been inflicted on them by this cruel and barbaric war.
Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Odesa, Donetsk, Lugansk, Bucha, Energodar, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv – this book tells the stories of many people from these and other cities and towns from different regions of Ukraine. People whose homes and lives were destroyed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Review by Rosh A must-read
December 12 2022
In a Nutshell: A horrifying exposé about the life of ordinary Ukrainians after Russia invaded their nation on Feb 24th 2022. Written in the form of a journal and covers the first hundred days of the war. I knew this book would break me; I still read it for the author and for the people of Ukraine; I am now torn apart, much more than what I thought was possible.
Anton Eine might be a new name to many of you. As an indie author who primarily writes in Russian and has his works translated to English, his works are virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. I too hadn’t heard of him until the day I stumbled upon one of his short stories on a website. Since then, I have read a few more of his short fiction and even his full-length sci-fi novel. Fiction is his forte. (He is fabulous at sci-fi.) Whatever I have read of his works, I have enjoyed. Until this book.
The word “enjoy” simply can’t be applied to this memoir. I hated almost every word of it, because my brain refused to believe that this was actually happening. As an avid historical fiction reader, I have read quite a few novels on wars and the barbarities that come along with it. None of those stories prepared me for the reality that the author reveals through this book, none!
"I started writing this book not knowing if I would be able to finish it."
This is how Anton begins this book. He started writing this collection of journal-style essays on a night he couldn't sleep because of the sound of the exploding bombs. Anton makes good use of his skills as a writer, poet and songwriter to present to you a picture of the ground reality in Ukraine for the common citizens. He doesn’t cover the actual battles because, as he says, that’s someone else’s story, someone who is fighting on the frontlines. Anton’s role is to present to us the side we don’t see in the media. He narrates not just his own experiences but also the anecdotes of friends and acquaintances as they struggle to stay alive in times of siege. Moreover, as Anton is father to a three-year-old boy, his narration gets an added layer of poignancy. The way he reveals how he and his wife decided their approach towards talking about the war with their son just broke me. I mean, what kind of a world are we in that a three year old needs to understand what’s war?!
Let me now add my own version of Anton’s sentiment: "I started *reading* this book not knowing if I would be able to finish it." I am someone who prefers keeping my head buried in the sand when it comes to topics about extreme brutalities, especially against animals or children. Reading these in fiction itself is a tough task for me. Reading a nonfiction with this kind of material is akin to gutting myself. I can’t tell you how many times I just cried and closed this book, thinking, “I can’t continue; I don’t want to continue.’ But there was a simple fact that made me return to it every time - I was just reading about the atrocities; the people of Ukraine were living with the atrocities.
Anton covers a variety of topics in this collection. Most of the topics are, but obviously, depressing. PTSD, rapes, murders, food shortages, the role of the media (news and social), … As he jumps from topic to topic, sometimes within the same essay, you can feel his passion, his pain, and even his fear for his family. The essays are somewhat rambling at times, showing his intense distress as he trudged ahead with the narration. I don’t know how he found the strength to pen this book. I’m just stunned at his bravery. Writing this book must have been like digging into a fresh wound with a sharp object, over and over again.
As the book covers just the first hundred days of the war, there is a lot that has happened since then. As of 11th December 2022, the war has lasted for 290 days, and still shows no sign of abatement. When the author began this memoir, he surely wouldn’t have known that the new status quo would continue even until December 2022, and God knows how much longer.
To some extent, the book reminded of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. But Anne was a young teenager in the 1940s who was still hopeful of her chances at times. Anton is a man of the 20th century who has seen enough of life to be realistic about the future. As such, this book is much darker than Anne Frank’s diary. Some of the events are so unbelievably gut-wrenching that I have lost almost all faith in humanity. Thankfully, Anton sprinkles enough of happy moments also to show the positive side of people, whether with volunteering efforts in war zones or providing aid to refugees. These are far and few between, but they do help.
At the end of the book, Anton lists out ways by which you can help the people of Ukraine. One of the ways is by purchasing this book, as all proceeds are to be donated to the Ukrainian cause.
If you wish to read a book about what happens to ordinary lives that aren’t ordinary anymore just because of a crazy dictator’s egocentric whims, this book is the one to choose. Recommended, but with a devastated heart.
I don’t think I need to give you a list of content warnings for a nonfiction book about living in an active war zone.
I wish I could leave this book without a rating because my mind is torn over how to evaluate this book. But I consider it a must-read, despite the traumatic effect it had on me. As such, I’ll just hit the highest rating wherever I can to give it a good chance of getting more readers.
Review by Jenni deBie Collected stories from family and friends across Ukraine
June 27, 2023
There was a time when I knew nothing about Ukraine. A time when Kyiv was the answer to a pub quiz question, and one I would only get right on a very, very good night. There was a time when I would have mixed up the name of the city of Mariupol with the Spanish word for butterfly, mariposa, a time when Lviv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia were just names on a map I did not need to read.
Those times disappeared on February 24, 2022, and now we live in a world where these names and so many more should be known, remembered, and studied for what they can teach us about modern warfare, human cruelty, and human resilience.
Anton Eine’s The Thin Blue-Yellow Line Between Love and Hate is a harrowing chronicle of the first 100 days after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of a peaceful, neighboring state. Written moment by moment, Thin Blue-Yellow Line follows Eine’s family as they flee their home in the first weeks of the war, taking with them only necessities, and the unshakable hope that they will return.
However, Eine does not focus solely on his own, lived experience, harrowing as it is. Rather, he has taken pains to collect stories from family and friends across Ukraine, each giving their reasons for staying, or going, or coming back to what is left for them to come back to. There are stories of terror, hunger, and hope all to be found within these pages. Stories of incredible bravery, like an unarmed woman walking, hands up, down the road at the head of her refugee caravan, leading them past Russian checkpoints as they flee a city left in ruins. Stories of volunteers who began by smuggling food only to their families in occupied areas, and became lifelines for entire villages as a result. Of grandmothers who leave poisoned pies cooling in the kitchen as they flee the homes they have loved for decades, a fitting offering for the unwelcome guests who forced them out. These are the people of Ukraine, clever, brave, reckless sometimes in the ways the people must be reckless when there is nothing else to be.
This was not a fun read.
Again and again I wept in the reading, as I know Eine wept in the writing.
That said, it is a necessary read. As the war in Ukraine verges on 18 months long, and the soldier and civilian death toll climbs by the day, the unmistakable fact grows clearer: we are living through history. Our children will watch documentaries about these past, many months, and will ask what we knew, and what we did, while a dictator and the populace he has trained like an animal and wields as a weapon attempted to creep across the map. Did we know what was happening? Did we hear the cries?
Did we see the thin, blue and yellow line that divides hate from love?
Review by Goodreads reviewer I cried and I felt rage
December 8 2022
I read this book slowly and carefully. And if you want to understand what it is like for the everyday people—people like you and I, people with pets they love, with families, children, mums, dads, grandparents who we all love so much and make up our world—who are living through the war in Ukraine right now, then you must read this book. It will give you a deep insight that you can’t get from the news or YouTube. At times it is gruelling, at times it is beautiful. I cried and I felt rage.
The love that shines out in the darkest times is what humanity is all about. You will see both humanity and inhumanity in these pages. People with nothing, giving everything. At times we all need to push through hard things, just as the author tells us how hard it was to hear the stories and write this valuable piece of history as it happened. It is a personal account, you can feel the pain that the people are enduring. This teaches us we must also not allow war to happen.
Not Quite A Beginning
I started writing this book not knowing if I would be able to finish it. Knowing that at any moment an Iskander or Kalibr missile might come flying through our window and it would no longer matter or make any sense. But the idea was born somewhere deep inside my heart, emerging out of strong feelings of love and hate. Out of a desire to destroy our enemies and protect those I love from danger.
I started writing this book one sleepless night in Kyiv. Once again, I had been kept up all night by the constant roar of our aerial defense systems and the enemy’s exploding bombs nearby, listening out for their approaching missiles and wondering whether I should grab my wife and young son and run for the air raid shelter.
I was lying on the floor by the front door, where we had slept every night since the beginning of this relentless war, and suddenly I knew what I had to do. I had to write about all this. Because I am a writer, because I can and because I want to. Because someone has to write about this war, someone has to share with the world the feelings, experiences and the stories of the different people who have since been in touch with me.
This realization came to me on the third night. For the first three days, I was simply in shock, almost in a complete stupor, our world was collapsing before our eyes and in an instant, everything that had once been important ceased to have any value. Our world changed forever with the roar of the explosions and gunfire that woke us on the night of February 24th.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s theory of the five stages of accepting grief states that people who are going through loss experience a series of emotions: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Despite being perfectly acquainted with this theory, I couldn’t stop myself refusing to accept this new reality. I did not understand my place in it. I did not know how to live with it.
Then there was the ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself!’ episode, which struck home with its insane heroism and our border guards’ subtle and masterful sense of humor. Then I read a poem by Oleksandra Smelyanskaya, which was complex, heart-wrenching and full of protest and anguish. A little later on Twitter, I came across Jenni Williams’s verse Slava Ukraini (Glory To Ukraine), dedicated to the children of Ukraine during these cruel and brutal early hours of the war. I was extremely touched to read such a subtle and supportive handling of this complex topic from an English-speaking author.
And suddenly something in me cracked and broke. Like a dam hit by a missile strike. I was lying awake at night, mulling the news and other people’s literary reactions to it over and over in my head, when I abruptly realized that over these first three days, I had completely forgotten that I myself was a writer, a poet and songwriter.
I had had other priorities on my mind – I needed to ensure my family’s security, to stock up on food and water, to get cash out of the bank, to charge our power banks, to pack our emergency bags, to make sense of the madness that was going on around me, to decide what to do next...
Creativity, books, songs and poems were the last thing on my mind. We had suddenly hurtled to the foot of Maslow’s pyramid of human needs that asserts that people are motivated first to fulfill basic needs (food, clothing, safety) before moving on to other, more advanced and complex ones. We were sitting there stunned, propped up against the bottom step, at rock bottom and all we could think about was survival. At that moment, I was a father, a husband, a son and a brother – but definitely not an author.
The rumble of artillery and explosions was not helping me sleep but any hope of rest was dispelled by the thoughts racing through my mind. I have a very unhealthy psychological tic. As soon as I start composing something in my mind at night, and my brain picks up speed, stalking, chasing and finally pouncing on the challenge at hand – there is no way I am ever going to be able to get to sleep.
And that was how I started writing my poem: Little Russian Soldier Boy. The result turned out to be complex and straightforward, but I was pleased with it. All night long, I tried to keep the different stanza options in my head to avoid waking my wife and son, and as morning approached, I ran for my laptop to get everything down.
By the break of day, I realized that I needed to write a book about this war. To hell with my sci-fi-fantasy and Jesus-Christ-rock-star novels I was supposed to be prepping for publication. The only thing that mattered now was the war. And I felt the need to empty my feelings, emotions and experiences onto the pages of a book. To help other people tell their stories and to bring them to readers all over the world.
This meant that in accordance with Kübler-Ross’s grief acceptance theory, I had immediately jumped from the first stage – denial, to the fifth – acceptance. Although the anger stage hasn’t gone anywhere in a hurry. But the real ‘me’ had returned, pushing aside the small frightened creature curled up on the rug by my front door.
This ‘me’ stroked the creature’s head and quietly and reassuringly whispered to him that everything was going to be fine now. It was clear now what I had to do. To do what I do well. To write. To awaken people from their indifference. And to seek and find understanding and develop a response. The creature stopped whimpering, got up from the rug, dusted itself off, and snarled softly at the enemy:
“Right, you bastards. Words are my weapon of choice. And I will not sleep or eat until I have done everything in my power to stick my words in your ravening craw and long may you choke on them afterwards.”
The fourteenth day of this bloody and senseless war has just ended. I am sitting in Lviv, where the sound of gunfire and explosions cannot be heard. My son is sniffling softly next to me in the bed. I had just finished another interview, this time with Canadian cable TV. It involved a lot of correspondence and coordination. I was tired. I could have done with a drink. A wee dram of whisky. But alcohol is not for sale, and when we were fleeing our home, I didn’t bring any of my precious supplies with me. There were other priorities. But I do not regret this and have no complaints. I have a roof over my head, I’m warm, I’ve eaten. Millions of Ukrainians today do not have any of these luxuries.
So, all I can do is quietly close my laptop and try to get some sleep after a long and difficult road and the complete absence of any rest over the past two weeks. In the meantime, I’ll sign off this ‘not quite a beginning’ with Little Russian Soldier Boy.
Little Russian Soldier Boy
Thug Russian warship changed course bringing terror and fear,
“Go fuck yourself!” echoed back from the Snake Island shore.
Hey, Russian soldier boy, what are you doing here?
This land is ours, it’s not yours, what are you looking for?
In spring of ’14, you invaded Crimea like a sneak,
Eight years of stalemate, the Donbas now filled with dead,
Hey, Russian soldier boy, I can’t figure it out:
Why have you come here, and what’s in your green zombie head?
You’re not my brother, you’re no friend of mine at all.
You have no honor, your army’s disgraced, has no shame.
Hey, Russian soldier boy, you’ve got some nerve and gall,
Now you will die here for nothing, no glory, no fame.
Did you expect from us flowers and freshly baked bread?
After your missiles and rockets, your child-killing bombs?
Hey, Russian soldier boy, we’ll send all orc scum to Hell!
We fight our foes, we don’t welcome them into our homes.
Why did your parents not teach you to love but to kill?
Now when you sit in your tank getting ready to fight,
Hey, Russian soldier boy, I will spell this out once –
The dust of our land is the last thing that you’ll ever bite.
Ravens and dogs are preparing for death’s coming feast.
Javelin fire will erase all your memories and names.
Hey, Russian soldier boy, fill your pockets with seeds –
Yellow sunflowers will spring from your rotted remains.
Our famous black earth is now soiled with your blood,
Violent explosions despoiled all our cities that day.
Hey, Russian soldier boy, fly back to mom and dad.
It’s still not too late to redeem your sad life far away.
For seventy years we lived free of all conflicts and wars.
Years of rich harvests and calm perfect summers, we spent.
So, Russian soldier boy, send our message to all:
Lay down your arms, go back home while you can still repent.
Hatred and wrath rot inside me, destroying my love.
But my heart strives for this madness to come to an end.
Hey, Russian soldier boy, while it’s still not too late,
Throw down your Tsar and we’ll welcome you back as a friend.
The Very Beginning
I vividly remember when my son was born, they brought him to me, and I held him against my chest. Skin to skin. A big bundle with a tiny seed of perfect happiness inside. I held this tiny little man in my arms and affectionately whispered sweet tender nothings to him.
We greeted and got to know each other. I told him that he had the best mother in the world and that she loved him very much. And that I loved him and his mother very much. And that even though we had just met him, I knew that I would love him all my life.
I talked to him about this big wonderful world that was so new to him and which he had yet to discover. I told him how beautiful and interesting it is. That we would show him this world, and that he, too, would come to love it, as much as his mother and I did.
From the very first minutes, I tried to speak with my son as if he were an adult: openly, honestly and directly – man to man. I had to admit to him that the world is not always a kind and friendly place, but he need not worry because his mother and I would take care of him. I told him that I would protect him from all trouble and misfortune because that’s what dads are for.
I promised to teach him to be strong, kind, fair. To teach him everything that I knew or, failing that, everything that he himself might want to learn. It was such a sweet exchange between father and son, and since then I have always tried to tell him the truth, even if the truth is difficult and unpleasant to hear.
But in the very first nights of the war, I realized that I had let my son down. That I hadn’t kept my word. That I didn’t know how to keep him safe. How to protect my small child from the rockets and bombs falling from the sky? From the enemy planes, tanks and guns?
I recalled the lines from an old song by Sting and asked myself how I might “save my little boy”. And I understood that the wheel of time had come full circle. That all the fears of the Second World War and Cold War had come back to haunt us. We found ourselves once again fearing for our children, unable to protect them from the danger that threatened. I might have taken up a gun and gone to kill the accursed invaders but this would have provided no protection for my family from a stray missile hitting our block.
I embraced my son as he slept on the floor next to the front door underneath our building’s load-bearing concrete columns that might be able to shield us a little from the danger. I felt his sleepy warmth, fragility and defenselessness… And a lump in my throat from my impotence and inability to protect him from this horror. My stomach was knotted with fear for my wife and child.
It’s at moments like these that you realize you’ll do anything for them. No matter what. You understand that no embrace however strong or tender can protect your child but that you cannot let him out of your arms, you cling to your feelings of care, love and proximity, your imaginary sense of security.
You lie there in the silence of the night, you hear the roar of an explosion somewhere in the distance and you catch yourself rejoicing that it hasn’t landed here. And that trembling creature inside quietly thanks the higher powers that the rocket flew overhead.
Immediately you become ashamed of yourself and the miserable creature that dwells inside because you know that this missile has exploded somewhere else. Somewhere where small children are also sleeping peacefully. Or were also sleeping... And you think, at least let it not be where your friends and relatives are living. But this thought also seems treacherous, cowardly and contemptible because someone else’s relatives and friends were sleeping there just before it exploded.
You grit your teeth, painfully, until you can hear them grinding, you try to breathe more calmly, to calm the panic that assaults you and the shame at your own relief that the explosions are somewhere in the distance, not here, close by. You clench your fists until they crack, your nails digging into your skin, while you regard your son in the twilight, listening to his measured breathing.
I remember being told during our university’s obligatory military service courses that if the target on the radar screen is small and approaching quickly right in the center, then this is a missile that is heading directly towards your radar station, guided by your own signal. In this scenario, you need to cut off the station’s power supply, run outside as far as you can and dive for cover. Then, and only then, there is a chance that the missile will lose your signal and instead hit a neighboring radar station.
I am assailed by the same vile sensation every time the air defense systems start shooting or a bomb goes off somewhere nearby. ‘Just let it not be here. Just let it not be my son. I beg you!’
I have never been religious, but at moments like these, I even regret it a little. How much easier it would be to be able to pray in earnest, calling on someone bigger, wiser and all-powerful to protect your child from the incoming missiles.
But, reading the news about the victims of this bloody war, about the dead and wounded children, you immediately come to your senses and ask yourself the question. What the hell is this wise and omnipotent God doing allowing such atrocities? Why hasn’t He protected and saved the dozens, hundreds of children who have already been harmed? And then you understand that maybe it’s a good thing that you never believed all this religious bunkum after all. And the only thing worth believing in now is the protection provided by our air defenses and the still rather small statistical probability of being hit right here, right now.
And again, Sting’s lyrics from the same song float up to the surface of my consciousness. Because it seems that now, too, the only thing that can save us all is if the Russians really do love their children too. But I have been to Russia many times with my work. I know many people there, good and kind people. And I know that they love their children as much as we do.
So why then is their silence so servile and indifferent when their unhinged president sends his army and air force to bomb our cities and our children? Why are our children’s lives of less value to them? Why do they allow their sons to be sent to this war when all that awaits them here is an inglorious, terrifying and ignominious death?
Two weeks have passed since this senseless war began, and more than 12,000 young Russian men have been killed already. Along with the wounded and those taken prisoner, their numbers at the time of writing must be in the tens of thousands. So, do the Russians love their children too? If they did, the obvious answer to this question would be to put an immediate end to this bloodshed.
If the parents, families and friends of the dead, maimed and captured Russian soldiers were to protest on the streets of their cities, their numbers would reach into the hundreds of thousands. A crowd that neither the police nor the army would be able to stop.
We know what we are talking about. In 2013, when our former president and national traitor, Viktor Yanukovych decided to refuse to sign an association agreement with the EU, students went out on the streets and organized a sit-in at the Maidan in the center of Kyiv. When the ‘Berkut’ riot police began to brutally beat and arrest them, the whole country witnessed these barbaric actions against their “children” on television and in a single evening, the entire center of Kyiv was filled with a furious protesting crowd of Ukrainians. More than a million people decided to go out and stop the arbitrary and lawless actions of this criminal government.
There was a confrontation with the police and shootings and street fights began. People from all over the country flocked to Kyiv to join the protest and fight for their freedom. And with each brutal action, the authorities elicited a new surge of indignation and new waves of incoming protesters.
There were many victims. Beatings, beheadings, torture, executions. The security forces regularly summarily executed the wounded. There were snipers on the rooftops shooting innocent people. Others were burned alive. These victims became known as the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ and became a national symbol of heroism for the whole of Ukraine. They paid for our country’s future with their lives. It became known as the Revolution of Dignity.
Therefore, the question one has to ask is: do the fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of the thousands of dead and tens of thousands of wounded young Russian men who have fallen on Ukrainian soil really not value the lives of their loved ones sufficiently to take to the streets and sweep away their criminal government in a wave of righteous fury? If not out of a sense of compassion and fellow suffering for our children, who have been bombed and shot at by their army, then surely for the love of their own?
Or is their fear and submissiveness towards their government stronger than their love for their own sons? I just can’t imagine how this can be so. I simply can’t believe it and I can’t accept and forgive it either.
“On June 22 1941, at exactly four o’clock in the morning,
Kyiv was bombed and it was announced that the war had begun”.
These are the lines from a WWII song we all learned in our childhood and every adult in the former Soviet Union remembers it. This song and Molotov's famous radio speech broadcasting the beginning of the Second World War. And we truly believed that this would never happen again. Not in the twenty-first century. Never again. We had rid ourselves of the black plague of fascism forever and the horrors of that war would remain forever in the past.
I remember my grandfather’s stories recounting his personal campaign from the beginning of the war to its end in Europe. I remember my grandmother recounting how her entire family was shot at Babi Yar, and how she miraculously survived. In September 1941, the Nazis murdered 100-150 thousand people at Baby Yar in occupied Kyiv, including Soviet prisoners of war, communists, Roma and almost 34 thousand Jews. I had always thought that atrocities like these could never be repeated in our civilized times, in a modern European country. That we should remember, respect and be grateful to those who had put a stop to the nightmare of that war. It seemed unthinkable that there might ever be a repeat of that fascist invasion.
Until the morning of February 24, 2022. When at approximately four in the morning, we were rudely awoken by a massive barrage of explosions and gunfire that shattered the silence of the night. In Kyiv? It simply seemed impossible. In Kyiv? Eighty years after the last invasion? I was delirious, right?
It seemed as unreal as waking up to the planet being invaded by aliens. I had written about such things in my science fiction stories but I could never imagine that an invasion might happen in my lifetime. And that these strangers, these aliens might be our neighbors.
During the Soviet Union, a contrived philosophy of a nation of happy and fraternal peoples was artificially created, and Putin’s propaganda machine has been actively trumpeting this fake concept in its rhetoric for the past decade and a half. After Crimea and Donbas and especially after the launch of the current war, the Russians have convinced us more than ever that we have never been fraternal peoples.
Personally, I believe that absolutist generalized statements of this sort are the product of a narrow and fanatical frame of mind. Declaring that we are Slavic Christian brother peoples is rather odd, given the fact that the population of Russia is becoming increasingly Central Asian and Muslim. And any talk about a common ideological inheritance cannot be taken seriously either.
However, objectively, we have shared common historical roots since the time of Kievan Rus, and our people have constantly intermarried, especially in those areas where our countries border each other. I, like many others, have my fair share of distant family in Russia, and there is a likely chance that some of my second or even further removed cousins might be among the dead, wounded, captured or still living invaders in my country.
Ukraine shares its land borders with Poland, Slovakia, Belarus, Romania, Hungary and Moldova. And over the generations in all these border regions, people have married, migrated, mixing and sharing their blood and languages in the process. Does that make us all brothers? I don’t think so. But it does make us good neighbors, family and friends. It does make us civilized peaceful peoples who respect each other.
I have had the occasion to visit Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Belarus. The only neighbor I haven’t been to, except as a transit passenger, is Moldova. And in all of these countries, I have always experienced kindness, warmth, mutual respect and hospitality. They would only ever look askance at me when they thought that I was Russian.
And it would never have occurred to me that any of these neighboring countries would ever attack Ukraine. That they would ever destroy our cities with missile strikes, carpet-bomb residential areas with unguided aerial bombs, kill our children, rape our women and loot our homes.
But it turned out that one of our neighbors could. You could even say two, because Belarus has not only colluded with Russia, allowing it to attack Ukraine from its territory but is also even preparing to join its invasion, judging by today’s latest negotiations between Lukashenko and Putin.
They even seem to have come up with a new sleight of propaganda. It turns out that Lukashenko has discovered a map proving that Ukraine has been preparing an invasion of Belarus all along. And that is why Russia needed to attack Ukraine. This utterly primitive level of false narratives and fake evidence would be hilarious if we weren’t now threatened with invasion by another country. And it could happen at any time. Perhaps even tonight or tomorrow.
I still look back at how things were only two weeks ago when this war first started and I understand that I am still not over my initial disbelief and denial. And every day, I have to catch myself thinking that I am still not prepared to accept that this new utterly changed world exists. I just want to wake up one morning and discover that it was all a bad dream, a very realistic nightmare.
But now, this nightmare stalks our lives. We are trying to survive. It is a reality that I want to deny. It is a reality that makes me furious. This level of cognitive dissonance is tearing us apart from the inside out, and when we finally defeat these Russian fascist scum, it will take many of us a long time to restore our mental health to a semblance of its previous balance and normality.
This cruel war has deprived adults and children of their loved ones, their homes, their peace, their sleep, their faith, their innocence and their childhood. We will win but the mental scars will remain with our entire nation and the entire civilized world, for that matter, for a long time.
We are faced with a level of aggression and terror that was not thought possible in Europe for the last eighty years. Believing that we as a species have outgrown such barbarity and have developed the modern political mechanisms that would never allow such a crude and bloody repetition of history and the return of fascism.
Well, it turned out that we weren’t all ready for this level of madness, we were caught by surprise, sleeping peacefully in the deceptive safety of our warm soft beds. Our awakening was rude and painful but now our eyes are open and we understand that the fight against the new plague spreading out from the Kremlin is a matter for the whole world and not just the people of Ukraine.
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