Russian leadership violated Ukrainian sovereignty and brought back full-scale war to the European continent, continuing to commit atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. But even in the most challenging times, there is cause for optimism, explains Kateryna Odarchenko, who is based in Ukraine.
Although many people had believed that the war would last only a few days, its fourth week just began. The days of war are very dark, but there are rays of light, too. Let us look at some sources of optimism, which include the unity of the Ukrainian people, their heroic struggle, and their desire to fight off the Russian invasion.
1. Rallies in Kherson: A major port city located on the Black Sea and other southern cities, many of which are now under Russian control, show the bravery of Ukrainians. Despite the presence of Russian forces and the bombing of the city, people still have the courage to come in thousands almost on a daily basis to protest.
2. In the occupied cities, the city council deputies are more united than ever in declaring their unity with a sovereign Ukraine. For example, members of the Kherson city council held a vote to support the statement that the Kherson region is part of Ukraine. This vote denounced the idea that Russian authorities could try to organize a referendum to declare a “national republic” in this region, similar to the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk self-proclaimed republics.
3. People are extremely involved in helping each other, no matter the region they are from. We are seeing this in the organization of humanitarian aid, charity projects, volunteer work, joint defense of cities, as well as assistance with evacuation and medicines. In areas where food is scarce, people are sharing with each other. Many citizens are taking the initiative to provide basic things like food and medicine to each other.
4. The strength of the motivation of the army and territorial defense forces remains impressive. The spirit of patriotism and the desire to protect their land and children give the military strength to fight. Moreover, the U.S. decision to supply more military equipment to Ukraine is a reassuring development.
Why Help Ukraine?
You might think that the war is far from you, but it is not. History shows that dictators rarely stop after receiving concessions. Despite the 1938 Munich Agreement in which European countries ceded Czechoslovakian territory to Nazi Germany (without the country having a say in the decision), Adolf Hitler went further in his ambitions and started the bloodiest war in modern history. The compromise on the purchase of energy resources and agreements such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Vladimir Putin have enabled the bombing of large cities in the center of the European continent. Now, a compromise in which Russia receives part of Ukrainian territory does not mean that he will stop there. By supporting the integrity of Ukraine, you support the integrity of other sovereign states in Russia’s neighborhood, including NATO member states.
Ukraine is currently a site of genocide as well as a site of struggle between two world views: the view of an authoritarian dictator and the view of the democratic world. This is a major ideological conflict that extends far beyond Ukraine. By supporting Ukraine, you support liberal values and freedom in this global struggle.
The consequences of Putin’s policies are already visible in many countries. It is not only about rockets hitting hospitals in Mariupol, but also effects on the global economy and rising prices, as well as a refugee crisis potentially similar in consequences to the impact of the war in Syria.
What Can Be Done?
If you are reading this article, there are a number of ways you can support Ukrainians in their fight.
1. Go to a rally. Draw attention to the problem within your country and city. Tell others what is happening. Show them pictures and videos.
2. Contact your politicians. Politicians in democratic societies are guided by public opinion, therefore it is always important to draw their attention.
3. Spread the word on social networks. It is important to show what is really happening in Ukraine–to show the real consequences of Putin’s policies. This will help us fight disinformation from Russia.
4. Send money or other resources to Ukrainians. You can donate money to the army or support a specific humanitarian initiative. What people in Ukraine need most right now is money to buy food and fuel. Meanwhile, refugees leaving Ukraine need housing, food, clothing, and other basic items. For example, you can donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross or UNICEF, or campaigns organized in your country.
As a Ukrainian, I am grateful for every protest in a foreign capital, every letter written to a politician, every small sum of money donated and every hour volunteered to greet refugees. Please stand with us in our fight to defend our country and democracy.
Kateryna Odarchenko is a political strategist, founder of the National Platform Party of Ukraine, President of the Institute of Democracy and Development “PolitA”, founder of the SIC Group Ukraine, member of the International Association of political consultants IAPC, and President of the Ukrainian Association of the Government Relations Professionals and Lobbyists (UAGRPL).