After living for more than a year in a country that is struggling for its very survival, it is easy to forget that life beyond the borders is now a completely other reality where people don’t share or understand of your experience. So, when you leave home and venture into the outside world, as I did recently, the realization of what your life has become, hits you like an ice-cold shower. The harsh, gray military reality we now live under is confined by Ukraine’s borders. 

Although deep down, of course, I knew that life in the countries around me must be continuing much as it always has. To see the peaceful life that was now all around me, compared with what I had left behind and the life I had before the war, now felt like ancient history or from someone else’s life. Outside of Ukraine, life now seemed artificial and the problems people faced were like those of children compared with ours. But, then, I realized that if it weren't for the invasion, we Ukrainians would be living lives just the same. 

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For me an even bigger shock was to come across Russians and to know that their lives remain unaffected, even though their country is at war too. They can travel with their husbands, are not limited to their own country, they can build their lives and conduct business abroad. It becomes obvious that in comparison to us in Ukraine that, apart from a few companies and brands leaving their home country, Russians live in peace in their country, their lives largely unaffected by the war.

Now is the Time to Intensify the Battle for Democracy
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Now is the Time to Intensify the Battle for Democracy

The good news from the US should be the stimulus for energizing joint efforts within the democratic world to stand up to Russia and the dangerous tyranny and chauvinism it represents.

In many ways, they remain victims of the tough regime in Russia and its propaganda. One of the things I just can’t understand is that, living in the West, they have access to a vast number of independent sources of information yet many, if not most, still rely on Russian sources of information which broadcast their support for Russian aggression against Ukraine. These citizens of the Russian Federation who abroad, still choose to support the brutal and bloody genocide of the Ukrainian people.

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It feels to me and other Ukrainians as if, during the Second World War, Germans traveled around the world waving banners in support of Hitler. 

During a week spent in Berlin, I came across large numbers of Russians; on the street, shopping in stores and boutiques, working in hotels and restaurants, etc. How can I be sure that they were Russian? As a Ukrainian it is easy for me to distinguish whether or not someone speaking Russian is, in fact, a Russian, a Ukrainian, or another nationality.  It is enough to hear only a couple of sentences to immediately understand who is in front of me.

Before the full-scale invasion, Russians proudly declared their country of origin when traveling. Now many are reluctant to do so, as if it's no longer as prestigious as it once was to be a Russian. I came across many who were claiming to be Ukrainian, especially when they found out I was, but as soon as they opened their mouths I knew the reality even though I didn't give a sign. I didn’t want to waste my time and energy engaging in an argument that would lead nowhere and would, just once again spoil my mood. 

To be honest, I hadn't expected to experience such a range of emotions. I felt a mixture of anger, pain, hopelessness, and frustration at confronting the injustice of the world that the existence of these people represented. It made the thought of returning home, to the war even more difficult. The atmosphere in Ukraine feels like thousands of strings stretched out and charged with electricity. And then, as I stood on the Ukrainian-Polish border, preparing to I felt that was literally on the border between two realities. So, I took a deep breath and a step towards meeting up with the war once again.

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Comments (6)

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I support
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I'm am across the ocean but I believe in you. I am so humbled by your courage and strength to endure against evil. Slave Ukraine!

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Richard
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Ukrainians must find the strength to endure. Much of the world is supporting you and pray that you will prevail.. It means much to all of us.. Honestly i wish i could do much more as I live far away from that conflict..

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I support
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In Canada I know young Russian men and they don't like Russian aggression against the Ukraine. They live in real fear of going back there. I've been in work situations with both Ukrainian and Russian present it's hard these Russian men with tears in their eyes saying they don't support the war. But it's still tense they like the freedom they have in Canada but one immigration mess up your either gonna die or go to prison. All I can say is it's horrible what is happening it will take a long time for the hate to fade.

I support
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@I support, maybe generations

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Chas
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I’ve struggled with this issue. I’m a Brit, living in London with my Ukrainian wife. We often hear Russian spoken on the streets of London, but are these people responsible for what is going on in Ukraine? I would like to think that many of them are not, but whilst some openly oppose the war, probably others stay silent. I think that all individual citizens bear some responsibility for their motherland’s actions, so we are all to some extent tarred with the same brush. For example, we Brits have committed many shameful atrocities during our long imperial history, the invasion of Iraq being a recent example. But at least in recent times we were all free to march the streets and show our displeasure. So Russians that stand up and oppose Putin’s war, especially those who do so from within Russia, should be shown some respect. Those that fail to do so while living in relatively safe countries such as the UK, Germany or even less safe ones like Georgia should all go back home and live in the Russia they so admire. My wife disagrees. She says that all Russians, without exception should go to hell.

Kristina
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@Chas, I take this topic very seriously and I appreciate what you are saying. Unfortunately, old generations have been growing up consuming news sponsored by the government. So, altering their minds and opening their eyes to other news sources is nearly impossible. I don't think it's people's fault for believing in things they listen to or read to daily. It's frustrating to see that my country has come to this situation and that the government leading the country is the most corrupt one in the world. Unfortunately, in a country with no speech of freedom, it's very hard to say what you think because you either go to jail, your family will suffer or you get drafted if you are a man. If only it was safe to say things out loud...

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Kristina
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Saying that Russians' lives remain "largely unaffected" is a high statement. A rather small number of people currently understand that people coming from Russia are also suffering. Either those remaining in Russia or living in a different country. I know many people that got affected because of the war either being drafted or struggling to make ends because of the inflation. So, don't declare that the life of Russians is unaffected. You don't know their current life situation.

Josh
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@Kristina,

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I support
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I don't even know what to say it must be horrible

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