The day I’ve met Maryna was certainly one which changed my perception of reality entirely for a moment or two. After meeting her twice down the hall, we begann to talk and she immediately told me, that she has left the Ukraine. Not that she ever wanted to, but her husband has told her to do so. Between the short moment of personal liberty and the beginning of the war against her country on the 24th of February, the freshly married almost thirty years old Ukrainian and her husband had to find a way to deal with the Russian invasion and help their families as well as the other citizens of her beloved country to prepare for the worst.
Danger, Death and Survial Tactics
Before she came to Berlin, they have lived in Ukraika, Kievan Oblast near by Kiev. As the war has begun, both have remained in the Ukraine helping upfront, but the situation got worse and they decided to separate. All she could pack was the most important documents and a few of her personal valuables, some money and her voice. Maryna and her friend Danya went on a Journey through Poland and came to Berlin, crushing at my neighbours place. Her husband wasn’t allowed to leave the country anymore, once the two young women have left the country.
Knowing that her and countless other members of her country were in danger, everyone in her family had to be quick in their actions and decision making. A fact the german may have forgotten within the debates of the gas price lately. Again gas, which contains a symbolically reversed and perverted meaning on behalf of human lives, war and genocides in the name of propaganda and dangerous ideology. As other terminologies have been rewritten and misused for a historical and very questionable symbolical character in Wladmir Putin’s web of lies, we must learn how to reflect critically on news and media.
The importance of solidarity and its general lack have become a significant problem during and after the global COVID19 pandemic. Whilst European values of democracy are endangered – thanks to the Russian invasion – it is inevitable that we learn what it means to be human again. It’s a matter of the heart and not the will, to end a war and embrace others in their darkest hours.
Her believe in peace made her and Danya survive the struggle at the European borders and getting ahead within Union. Share, care and give shelter for those who are endangered by fascism and dictators, may seem easy but also hard work and a humanistic duty for who those who are privileged enough to live in peace. However Germany had settled their diplomatic course into almost non-acting strategies, starting to weaponizing their own country and setting alert to an extended self-defense phase for almost a year. The question about what the future holds, is probably the worst nightmare for the Ukrainians, from which they cannot awake currently.
The ancient conflict of one big family?
Maryna explained me, that her mother was Russian, but the relation of her Grandmothers past is not an easy one to quickly digest. Contradictory camps and a commonly shared history, but also love within her family and those who offered her shelter during this hectic movements between Germany, Poland and her Homeland Ukraine. Before she has left the country to seek refuge, she has found herself working at the front. Making Wariniki–pasta filled with potatoes, cream or meat and also the national dish of within the former USSR–for the volunteers.
As a pacifist, she could never imagine something like this to happen, however knowing that the commonly shared past of thirty years in peace has already been a hard fight for freedom. She gave up her past life, to fight for Ukrainian freedom in Berlin and raise awareness. „How can I make myself useful, if my country is in danger?“ I couldn’t answer the question either. It’s a matter of being human, searching for liberty and peace of mind in this dark times.
The Spirit of Hope
Spirituality is one of the fundamental things, which connects the communities and families within the Ukrainian war zone and beyond the borders. The nature of her hometown is the place where she finds some hope for the future, whilst rebuilding her existence in Berlin. But both, this nature and the democracy on which the Ukraine is based on, are endangered. After first finding a safe space in Berlin, her situation has quickly changed because of unresolved legal issues, overwhelming bureaucracy and the hidden resentments of the german society or the fact that her first boss was Russian too.
Politically contradictory camps and difficult decision Making
It’s also the day of Andrej Melniks last day in office for diplomatically affairs between Germany and Ukraine. She agrees, that her country needs the protection and support through weapons within the NATO and Germany. She feels angry about the countless promises from Germany towards the Ukraine and this is only the peak of the emotional trauma for the Ukrainians which are scattered all over Europe.
She also explains, that the foundation of the Ukrainian spirit is much more ancient and the Ukrainians stand together as a proud nation, noting, accepting and compromising their differences through commonly shared cultural history and commonly negotiated values. But, the years of the communistic dictation and the separation from Russia, has left a mark on the current events. Russias propaganda has influenced the perception of reality within the involved families. „Most Russians close their eyes and remain silent, in times when it’s most needed.“
Past, present and future visions
Back in Ukraine, Maryna and her boyfriend were searching the woods for metals and other curiosities from the past. „He always finds something with the metal detector or on the street.“ Both spend plenty of time in the woods searching for precious things back then. Maryna works mostly with natural resources and has studied design. She even sew military badges for the growing defense team back then. As a student of the arts, she was growing rings from crystals and other organic materials, working her way to make her living as an artist and selling her treasures online. She also sings, which helps her through the hard days way from her family, at least a bit.
Except for visiting her family briefly in summer, she has been away from her personal place of freedom for nine months by now. We try to draw new pictures in our minds and imagine the country before and after the war. But the bitter truth blends in as soon as she gets carried away for a second. She describes her kind of Utopia, which she and her husband were working on back in Ukraine before the war. Her story is definitely a severe warning for us Europeans. How fragile the construct of democracy is, how valuable the freedom of speech or the individual liberties are, seems more important than ever in 2022/23 .
The social Consequences
Another day I listen to the tense voices of the family, whilst the connection is weak and the image cracks from time to time. The anger she has about the war is the most tense emotion to deal with, because it is the most honest and real one. It becomes clear, that the years of german neutrality cannot be the solutions in this conflict. In her opinion only a sky block provided by the NATO could end this terrible war, preventing Ukrainians and Russians from dying and make peace with their neighbours once again, at least in the long run.
She’s not alone. Back in the South-West of Germany, I get to know another young man from the Ukraine. He’s 22 and just left the country before the closing of the border for every man who’s able to fight against the invasion. He told me, that the journey to Germany was a nightmare and that the society on the countryside was rather harsh as he arrived. „Why are you here and not fighting in your own country?“ was one question by the sleepy villagers kept asking. It’s a sad truth, that people would rather see a queer person die for blind nationalism, instead of helping and support him to find honest work and a place to stay contemporarily.
The Resistance has many Faces
However all the individual humans I’ve met over the past year have their own stories, wishes and the righteousness to face the war on their own terms. The resistance may come in different places and faces, within a concert, a movie or the untold story of single individual from the Ukraine or Russia. They may live next door and we don’t even realize it until they face us and we’re the only ones being able to help. But it is crucial, that we listen to these stories and the people who tell them, because we need to win the battle for our democratic values and the European Union together.
No one deserves to die, in order to enable peace and no one deserves to suffer for a fascist government which sacrifices innocent lives, claiming territory or power. Each and everyone of those individuals craves for peace and needs our solidarity to survive the cold bitterness, which has become a social consequence of the war in front of us. All of the Ukrainians I’ve met over the last year claim two things for themselves, which can be put in two simple words: liberty and peace.