Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Growing up, I had two cousins of nearly my age. Sasha was born ten days earlier than me and Ivan - two and half weeks later. As kids, we grew up playing together, went to the same primary and middle school, and the same class. Now both of them are dead. Ivan died about 10 years ago, someone (or a group) killed him or he hanged himself - it's inconclusive. Sasha got killed at war with russia, just two weeks ago. 

Sasha, may his soul rests in peace. 

My father died when I was 11. His elder brother (my uncle), passed away few years later. And three out of four grandparents are already there. While death of elders brain perceives as something can be explained and understood (which was still a devastating loss), I am struggling to comprehend the fact that two of my cousins, who were of my age, are gone. As I got to know about death of Sasha at war, I felt sadness and anger. I also thought that if I have stayed in the village, or not making it out of Ukraine in the end February, it could be my fate. It could be me, whose body was torn in two parts, not Sasha's. 

As it has been over 100 days since russian launched full-scale war on Ukraine (109th day as of time of writing), I've learned to "normalise" it. It's crazy to think of a war as something normal. But it became a new norm. The perception of war has changed a lot. As I remember reading of wars in Afganistan and Syria, and thinking it's bad. But it's very different feel when it happens in your country, and to your family. I have nightmares from time to time. In a recent one, I was trying to evacuate from a city and was on the phone with someone in order to get a car. Then I went out and was shot. I fall on the ground, but still conscious, crawling to the nearest building. Then I woke up. My first thought was: probably I died from losing too much blood. I should have first stopped bleeding first by applying pressure on the wound area with a piece of cloth and then move. How stupid! More recently I read in the article how five-year-olds are responding to sounds of sirens (that rockets might hit your area): "It's not for us, we are busy drawing pictures". 

Mariupol: destruction after russian attack. 

Ukrainians overall experience war differently, depending where they are. Many in the eastern and southern parts have their homes destroyed, witnessed horrors of russian occupation, those who are in actual battlefield, being shot or seeing their friends killed. Those who are in the central part and west - follow the news, sending their sons, husbands, fathers going to the front to fight, praying they come back alive. Raising money to buy protective gears, bulletproof vests, Motorolla phone, medicine, drones, transport cars, and Ukrainians overseas sending donations and asking their friends around to donate too. Basic things are provided by government, but if you want to increase your chances of survival at war, you need to gear up. 

Dead bodies of civilians on the ground in Bucha

As I have been travelling in several countries, and people I meet know that I am from Ukraine, the topic of war is inevitable. I was sending a parcel from Dubai to Hong Kong through a logistic company. A guy at the counter asked me where I am from. I say - Ukraine. He looks at me and says: I am from Syria. I know what it feels. We are in this shit for 11 years already. When I was in Egypt, I got blamed for their food shortages: It's because of you we don't have enough food and prices are rising, - an angry Egyptian man told me once he learned that I am from Ukraine. I told him: Don't blame me, blame russia. In many non-democratic countries media follow russian version of reality, and largely blame on the USA and Ukraine for what's happening. Whatever is their argument, they can't deny a simple truth: it's russian soldiers who came on Ukraine land, who destroyed homes and cities, tortured and killed thousands of civilians - brought death to our land. Not the other way around. 

People are hoping to evacuate, stuck under destroyed bridge in Irpin' city

Yet after over 100 days of war I am learning how not to hate and not to be angry. And divert the energy to more productive work, as money I can earn and donate to the army and support my family. Not everyone is fighting in a physical war, but lots of Ukrainians do their bit by supporting army in one way or another. For example, Ukrainian Community in Hong Kong is regularly raising money for specific causes. A conversation recently happened between two Ukrainians

- You should not hate..
- But, my dear, can you please explain to me how can I not to hate people, who are killing our children, rape our women, who robbed my house and has stollen my life from me?
- Everyone in this life has a mission. In order for good to win, someone need to be evil. So it is their mission - to be evil and destroy everything on their way. 
- Then how can you explain the death of thousands? Explain me death of our best people. How can I forgive that? How can I justify that someone has a mission to destroy our lives?
- Olga, people who were born and live in Ukraine, did not come for the first time to this land. This is not their first time to protect and die for this land. This is our conscious choice. We died for this land many times and will be ready to die more times. 

It's not the first time that war came to this land, and, unfortunately, it's not the last. Our ancestors has fought for it, we are fighting and the future generations will have to fight, too. The history of humanity is not "mostly peace with occasional periods of war", it is "mostly war and occasional periods of peace". It's just how far you are from it, or how close - that makes all the difference in your lifetime. 


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