On 24 February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine and a war of aggression started.
Every day, every minute there are new stories of horror popping up on our phones, nearly every second day there are new atrocities and inhumanities revealed to the world. As a German living in Spain I often feel a little helpless facing this situation – and I am sure I am not the only one.. You feel unconscious in view of the cold-blooded abuse of power. A dictator and his entourage going for their goal of establishing an empire based on fear and hostility.
But how can every single one of us deal with this situation? How can we react, how can we show solidarity with Ukraine?
At AJ Inter we had the privilege to welcome four girls from Ukraine in our last KA3 project “Participation and real politics”. The main goal was to present different possibilities of political participation for youngsters and the various systems of democracy that exist in our countries of origin.
However, all of the participants will possibly agree that the biggest learning about each other.
To get to know the situation, the back story of young people who are directly affected by this direct aggression of democracy. I personally admire their contribution, their braveness and their will to spread knowledge about the situation and their personal story.
Together with Maryna and Anya we recorded a video about their perspective and their personal situation.
Right at the moment none of them is living in Ukraine, but both still have family there. Anya told us that she and her close family who flew to Romania have the plan to return to Ukraine as soon as possible. “Actually, we are looking for some tickets for trains or busses to go back”, she explained.
She is from Kyiv and was living in the city when the war started. In the video she remembers how she found out that the war started. “We had explosions at 5.30 and during my sleep I heard the explosions.” First, she couldn’t figure out the reason for the noises she heard and even thought of fireworks or construction works taking place. But when she searched on the internet, the word was already spread: Russia started the invasion.
For Maryna who lived in Sweden at the time being the situation was especially difficult to assess as she received a phone call of her father during the night. “He told me: “Maryna, please don’t worry, but the war began”.
I personally cannot come close to imagining what thoughts must race through your head when you realise: There is someone, someone with enormous power who’s goal is to destroy my country, my nation, probably even my people.
Brazenly. Indecorously. Mercilessly.
However, my biggest take-away from this week was: Communication is key.
Why do Ukrainian refugees decide to go back to Ukraine where they have to live with the constant risk of being killed?
Of course we can’t generalise this answer, but one of the main reasons is that they don’t feel welcome in other countries.
But this is exactly what we can change: Reach out to them. Go on rallies. Donate money, food and other goods. Help out for example by providing flats or support for administrative issues. And most important: Show our solidarity by just being there. Listening. Giving a hug.
Out of fear of triggering something, many of us obviated addressing the topic of war in the first days of the project – even though there was clearly something standing between us.
We have been incredibly cautious as we wanted to avoid assiduously any way of offending our guests. And however done out of good will, we unintentionally gave them the impression of not being interested.
So, my appeal to the public: Ask people for their needs. If they don’t want to share their stories, it’s their right. But nobody will be offended by a respectful question of how to support them. Because this is exactly what we have to do right now:
“Europe must unite as never before.
Because in unity is our strength.”
– Maryna and Anya