"War, war! And again rivers of blood! And the thunder of guns, and the clang of sabers. Graves, orphans, cripples... And the sadness of abandoned ruins." Oleksandr Oles, one of my favorite Ukrainian poets, wrote these words more than a hundred years ago. He described a truth that has long held.
Once, during a history lesson on the First World War, my teacher, Larisa Petrivna, said that war can only be started by someone who does not stand on the battlefield and does not see the price of "victory."
We were 14 years old. Could any of us then have imagined that after a mere eight years that I would be buying military equipment for one of my classmates? We were children. We looked at the world through rose tinted glasses. And back then there seemed to be no war in our color spectrum.
Nine years have passed since that lesson.
A week ago, I learned that my independence has been protected by another classmate – Ruslan. I was overcome with pride. I am genuinely proud of everyone who takes up arms to fight the enemy on our soil. In my eyes, they are all Heroes of Ukraine!
Then came the news which shook me: it turned out that Ruslan had been in enemy captivity for about three months.
It’s hard to believe. In my mind, these are young men playing guitars and organizing school parties. Even after everything I've seen, it's hard for me to imagine ordinary "children" who wanted peace as grown boys holding weapons in their hands.
In the last month, I started doing something new – helping the relatives of the missing search for their loved ones. It happened by accident. A number of people contacted me in my capacity as a journalist. In turn, I found various channels and ways of searching. That's how I got into the "Missing" community.
There are hundreds of messages in chat rooms every day – pain behind each of them. Pain that cannot possibly be felt without experiencing it first-hand. I think "missing" is the worst state. You exist in a strange world of obscurity, tinged with hope and despair on opposite sides.
It’s hard to imagine so many parents, wives and children who have been waiting for their defenders since 2014, without any news about them.
As 2022 drew to a close, there were 15,000 missing military personnel in Ukraine and more than 3.400 in captivity. Such figures were mentioned by Alyona Verbytska, the presidential commissioner for the rights of defenders of Ukraine.
Since the onset of Russia’s winter offensive in the Donbas, these numbers have increased significantly. Every photo that arrives in the "Missing" group is a blow to the soul. These are young guys my age. Some have just come of age. And it always leads to the same question. "Why? Who needs it?"
Every evening, news about some of those military personnel is posted in the chat. Before I go to sleep, I imagine the faces of each and every person receiving that information about their relatives. I imagine surges of joy when good news comes as the sense of obscurity and isolation washes away.
I want my classmate to come home to his parents as soon as possible. And I dream that one day, every Ukrainian defender will return home...
Because there is nothing worse than war. And, as Cicero once said, there is nothing better than VICTORY.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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