By Artem Ponomarevskyi, media and communication specialist, translator/interpreter, a Ukrainian in Lithuania.
“The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists,” Winston Churchill.
My name is Artem and I’m a Ukrainian citizen. In 2020, I left to study translation on a scholarship to Lithuania at Kaunas University of Technology. I wanted to live a peaceful life and improve my skills after working before as an interpreter and translator. Could I imagine back there that I will never see the native places in blossom and unbroken as they used to be? Now I am afraid to find just the ruins if I return to my country anytime. This is why, I am writing these lines to all people in all countries to keep away from Russia and the Russian people, who mostly support the regime and murdering for fun not only in Ukraine, but all of the entire world.
At 4:00 a.m. February 24, the military forces of Russian Federationlaunched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine along the entire length of the common border as well as from the territory of the Republic of Belarus. The occupiers are ruthlessly using the widest possible inventory of heavy artillery, military aviation, thermobaric weapon (vacuum bombs), and missile systems, including “Iskander”, BM-21 “Grad”, T0S-1 “Buratino”, ballistic and cruise missiles. All these “gifts” are hitting squares, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, libraries and densely populated residential areas in the face of allegations by the Russian regime that the “operation forces do not use violence against civilians in brotherly Ukraine”. Meanwhile, the arrests of those who talk about the war, the casualties in Ukraine, the deaths on the part of the Russian army continue, because there is only one version of what is happening – that of the criminal authorities: “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine…in reality – life deprivation of people.
As of 01.02.2022, according to UN, more than 100 civilians were killed and more than 300 wounded. According to Ukraine, more than 350 civilians died in the five days of the war, among them 16 children.The destruction of Ukrainian towns and villages on an unimaginable scale is still going on. However, the Ukrainian Armed Forces and people keep fighting back forcefully, leaving hundreds of burned vehicles and thousands of dead enemies who came with weapons to our land. As of March 3, 2022, according to the UN refugee agency, one million of people have already fled Ukraine.
Photo of Ukraine’s map. Souce: The Economist.
I hammered up all windows with my fiberboard paintings
I had a chance to talk by phone with Oleksandr, Ukrainian journalist and activist from cityChernihiv, northern Ukraine, which is now famous as a stronghold in the defense against the Russians. What he told struck me deeply, since it’s all about my hometown.
- Please, tell what was happening in the city of Chernihiv during the first 4 days of invasion?
- I did not sleep that night before invasion… took my phone and started watching the speech by Putin. I realized it was thedeclaration of war. Later, people started writing and posting the videos of explosions in various cities. My friends didn’t believe that the war started, but they woke up from the fire and missile hits. Everyone was shocked. People began to leave the city. On my way to work I heard the siren sound, and now I can hear it all the time, it just stuck in my mind and other people have the same problem. Our editor-in-chief left the city with children; we were asked to leave the office due to explosions nearby, just me and my colleague remained and started collecting information for our citizens. I did not eat anything the first 2 days from stress. But it was also hard to buy anything in shops, where the lines of hundreds of people are standing to get some products.
- I heard from our common friend that the house of your parents was hit. How are they?
- Yes, a building materials hypermarket “Epitsentr” together with the entire private district (with not any military objects in the nearest area) was shelled. First, a missile hit the house of our neighbors. Then another one hit my parents’ house and destroyed the half of wall. After some pause the shelling continued, and I barely managed to pick up my parents from there and take them to my apartment in the center. Currently, no stone left unturned in that district, all northern part of the city is smashed by the Russian “Grad” missile systems. You know, earlier I was interested in painting and have some of my pictures on fiberboards. So, I hammered up all windows with my paintings and, thus, use them as a protection, because I’m afraid not to be in time to the bomb-shelter.
- Our region is bordering with Russia and the Republic of Belarus at the same time. Do you know about any attacks from the Belorussian side?
Ballistic missiles from Belarus hit the center of our city. At the same time, the Russian missile complex “Iskander”, also from the territory of Belarus, was working. As a result, the cinema, kindergarten, school, psychiatric hospital, children’s policlinic, dentistry, library, boiler house, regional hospital, municipal hospital and some residential houses were either damaged, or fully destroyed. The nearest villages close to our city don’t exist anymore…
- Do you know anything about shelling of the kindergarten #72 in the city?
- It happened on Feb. 26. This was an artillery shelling from missile systems, self-propelled guns, ballistic missiles…and many buildings were covered by fire at once…dozens of people suffered. The enemy’s goal is to cause panic in the city.
- What could you tell about the attempts to take the city by assault? What weapon are they using to reach their goal?
- Lots of tanks! The artillery! Missile systems. When the “Iskander” is hitting it reminds of an earthquake. The buildings are staggering. We called the recent events “Battle for Chernihiv 2022” against the Russian units. Residents stop the convoys themselves too. The residents of village Koriukivka just blocked with themselves the road and the tanks had to turn back. However, in town Bakhmach of Chernihiv region people didn’t manage to stop the breakthrough. We have information that the occupants opened fire against civilians who blocked their movement in town Ichnia, Chernihiv region. There were cases when the Russians soldiers drove people away from their houses to overnight, and the residents were suffering from cold in our winter weather outside. This is why many civilians joined the territorial defense and are ready to fight against the occupants with the bare hands.
- What message would you like to send to people in other countries?
- I would like to thank for the support which is felt here. Volunteering, rallies, weapon that we desperately need. If you can help more, it would be great! Any aid would be good. The world is small in fact. If the Russians destroy us, they will go further. The ultimate goal of this aggressive state, using the armed groups everywhere on the globe from Africa to Latin America, is to rule the entire world just to feel their power. Their philosophy is, and this is clearly claimed on the information platforms of Russia, that the borders of Russia end nowhere. Thus, nobody in the world can feel safe right now. This is why it is important to struggle against this indeed a neo-nazi ideology.
- What would you like to tell the Russian people and/or the Russian government?
- Peaceful people in Russia should know that this escapade will lead to the death of Russia. Stop it, otherwise you will be liable for inaction. Let them read the history of World War 2 carefully. I advise the Russian government to watch the film “Nuremberg” released in 2000. And I wish their military forces who came with war to turn into a fertilizer.
Sumy feels pain and hatred
The situation was described by another person, who wished to remain anonymous, from the city Sumy, North-East of Ukraine as quite sad. He called the beginning of events the most tragic time from the beginning of the XX-th. century. Considering the voice condition and a high trust level of the anonymous source, the city, and the region really need immediate help.
– What did you see or hear in city Sumy?
– On February 24, the enemy entered the city and then engaged in a battle with the forces of territorial defense. The enemy’s howitzer, gas tanker, and truck were hit. As a result, the Russians surrounded Sumy and arranged the checkpoints for leaving and entering. APC and the infantry were checking civilians. An armored vehicle convoy drove towards the city but did not succeed to take it. Today the truck and gas tanker convoy were attacked by the soldiers of territorial defense, hit the vehicles, and took a captive. The city is still blocked. Territorial defense unit is in action.
– I heard about the kindergarten hit in town Okhtyrka of Sumy region which caused casualties among children and the missiles targeting other towns of the regions. Do you know any details?
– Yes, two military units are stationed there. There was an unsuccessful assault on the city, after which a missile salvo was performed. Despite the fact that people were hiding in the kindergarten’s shelter, the watchman was killed, a woman was injured, and one child of 10 years old got serious injuries and later died in a hospital…Later another salvo was performed, leaving the ruins of houses since the artillery hits everywhere. As a result, we have 70 injured people and dozens of fatal casualties, according to the town mayor… In town Konotop, the residential buildings were damaged and the fights are going on around the city. There was information that the highway Kyiv-Moscow is fully controlled by the Russians, which is quite bad due to the inability of goods supplying.
– What do you feel, and what would you like to tell media from other countries?
– I feel fear, pain, hatred. I could never imagine that this could ever happen. If this tragedy does not stop, the country with the population of 40 million of people will suffer soon from the humanitarian catastrophe. People just won’t have anything to eat and any medicine. Starvation may occur in two weeks. The hospitals don’t work too. It would be much more tragic and serious than after the war in Syria. This is why we need a no-fly zone and an immediate provision of weapons to the Ukrainian army. The enemy becomes more and more insane on the other side!
City Sumy now. Source: tsn.ua
Kyiv is standing strong
Finally, I spoke with Alisa, a brave lady, a civil society activist and a defender of civilians, from Kyiv. What she told inspires some hope inside, despite of all ruins and casualties in the city. This is a part of our conversation:
- My first question will be about most important: how often is the city under fire andhow is the situation with food and medicine supply?
- We hear the explosions all the time, and on the third day of aggression we learned how to differentiate them. When we were hiding in a shelter, we were surprised to receive messages that the enemy had already occupied some districts of the city, but later when the Internet connection was renewed it turned out that Ukrainian forces controlled all the city. However, the explosions are heard in the satellite towns near Kyiv, which is quite close to us. Many buildings in Kyiv were damaged, including those situated in the residential districts.Regarding the supplies, some supermarkets and pharmacies are working, but only at some addresses. Anyway, I didn’t go and check around so far. Neither public transport, nor subway is available. But it worked on the first days …so we were shelled at night, but buses and trams were working in the day time.
Children of war. Photo source: Reuters.
- Could you describe how the civil people of the capital of Ukraine were prepared for war?
- The situation was so that our bomb shelters were not enough prepared, because nobody was expecting such kind of war. So, the city center bars opened their shelters, although without the emergency tunnels. In many of them either ventilation, or toiletsare not working. It is problematic when the shelter is big and designed for 200 people, and the armed soldiers are walking in the streets at night.
- How did you handle this situation?
- I have to say that people became very well organized. People bring water to the shelters, repair the toilets, make hot water available, arrange the shelters maximally comfortable not just for themselves but for the others too. People are also removing the enemy tags, both fluorescent, those hardly conspicuous at the day time, and neon, seen only under the ultraviolet light. In many cases such tags are created on the roofs, most likely for an amphibious landing. We even have our own scouts, risking their life but exploring what is going on around…prepare the Molotov cocktails.I am proud of our community.
- So, people are reacting quite actively to what is, unfortunately, happening, aren’t they?
- Yes. One elderly lady of about 80 y. o. came to hide in a shelter and told that she was looking for some sweets at home to treat children. But instead of sweets I found a gun! It turned out she had a combat pistol, bullets, ownership documents, which was very surprising. We also know a person who lived in China for many years, and now he is coming back to Ukraine to defend his country. So, there are different situations: some people leave and some return.
- Ukrainians are now defeating the enemy on many fronts, and not just military. Whose credit do you think this is?
- The biggest credit for this goes not so much to the country leadership but to Ukrainian people.It does not matter that people earlier voted for the different political parties and whether they got disappointed with their leaders or not!All are standing now together, shoulder to shoulder. I think this is a very important indication that Ukraine has democracy. We stand not for power, but for ourselves, our country, our identity, our language, and our culture.Putin has unconsciously helped us unite. People who didn’t believe in Russian aggression, finally did it. Similarly, when we seceded from the Soviet Union there were many people who studied political science, who were interested in politics, and there was a breakthrough. After it we had some decline. There was some breakthrough again after 2014 followed by some decay. And finally, at this very moment people start analyze, follow news, stopped being indifferent, became interested in what is going on.
- Finally, what would you like me to tell international media?
- I am very proud of Ukraine as a strong country. I thought about the Cossacks, Ukrainian warriors, who centuries ago, having nothing, built the strongholds, met together, and organized the model army to defend peaceful people. Now the history repeats itself. Brave people, women, men, and even children of 15-16 years old are ready to resist. We always show that we can organize ourselves. We always wanted to join the NATO, but now the question is if the NATO would like to join us. Because we demonstrate that Ukraine has one of the strongest armies in the world. And, of course, we are very thankful for the support and aid provided by so many countries, this is crucially important for us, because this is not only war between the countries – this is the war of political systems: authoritarian and democratic. And the democracy must win!
A man takes part in a protest against Russia’s actions in Ukraine during a rally at Shibuya district in Tokyo on February 24, 2022. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP). Source: www.iol.co.za
- Thank you for such an informative story. Please, stay strong and safe!
Meanwhile, the Russian Nazi Federation is rejecting to recognize waging war againstUkraine and, for sure, its crimes against humanity. Perhaps, its leadership considers all the world as fools, or brazenly shows how it doesn’t care. The post-war order after WW2 is destroyed similarly as the lives of thousands of innocent Ukrainians only because one alternative history fan, sitting in Kremlin. If the countries of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Czech Republic, Baltic countries, perfectly understand what monster the current Russian Federation is with its ill philosophy of restoring the Soviet Union and no respect to human life, the rest of countries seem to be further from the true realization of it. It is not enough to support the territorial integrity of our country and condemn the actions of Russia, whose real face is now exposed to everyone. The Ukrainians everywhere require two things from international political elites, being introduced in short key phrases in social media: #NATO close the sky of Ukraine and And #ban_russia_from_swift ! If the second request was partially fulfilled, although not for all banks,the sky is protected, and innocent people face the death while being bombed and shelled. Ukraine begs the NATO to close the sky, which is not any interference but a protection of citizens. However, the NATO still does not consider this option, and this inaction, from my point of view, equals that the human rights are not for alland the civilized world can simply observe the process of genocide. This may severely undermine the trust of Ukrainian people to NATO and, I am afraid, already has. Sure, the decision depends not only on the US but the right decisions must be made immediately, otherwise it will be too late.According to the information agency ArmiaInform, about 16 000 of international fighters are coming to fight on a volunteer basis for Ukraine. However, the whole world must stand up and destroy the monster because “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” as it was emphasized by the brilliant philosophers of the past.