I have moved from Ukraine to Malta for a job in the end of 2021. It was an interesting experience, quite challenging, as I was jumping in between COVID restrictions — from one set of limitations in the EU to Malta adding Ukraine in the dark-red list of COVID-dangerous countries with flight restrictions.
It was some time from the first headers in the news about Russia gathering troops around Ukraine. Knowing that Russia is a classical bully, whos understanding of diplomacy is mostly threats and, well, threats, it felt that mostly people were used to it. In the end, Soviet Union is long gone and even though I knew exactly well the history of Ukraine-Russia relations for the last centuries, a real full-scale invasion into a 40-million people country in Europe today sounded like nonsense. 8 years ago when Russia started a hybrid war in the South and East of Ukraine they had a chance for brute force success — Ukrainian army and country in general was a bearer of consequences of long lasting effects from degradation of soviet institutions and diversions inside the country by mostly Russian agents trying to take the most from the hard times Ukraine fighting for democratic future in the post-soviet bureaucratic environment tending to autocracy. And believe me — Soviet Union did damaged Ukraine as a nation in the most brutal way possible, punishing severely for any sign of love or affection to the ideas of freedom in any possible way. But now? After 8 years of war in the East of the country and occupied Crimea most of the population of Ukraine has lost all the illusions about friendship with Russia. Everything stayed exactly as it was 368 years ago back in 1654 when Ukraine signed their first agreement with Moscovia the actual origin of Russia. They do not recognize mutual agreements, only one-sided obedience. And our country learned the hard way why army is still important today — because evil never sleep. We lost many heroes through this 8 years fighting with Russian military in the East, learning to support our army and growing a generation of experienced fighters and commanders as well as generation of young adults free from Soviet Union fog of fear and aware of their true identity, brave enough to fight for their bright future, the future that belongs to them.
So in February when we finished all the work around documents in Malta, being able to travel back and forth to Ukraine we bought our tickets home to see our parents and friends first time in few months. There were already a lot of talks about the invasion, that it should start 16th of February. There is no way it’s possible though, we knew exactly well that if it will — it will be a blood bath. Ukraine today is in it’s strongest, while Russia in it’s weakest if we will review the last 300 hundreds years of the confrontation. And we had our tickets for 20th of February. So, we decided, if the invasion will not start till then and Wizzair won’t cancel our direct flight — we will go home. Just as a pre-caution. In the end, nothing will happen, right? It’s madness.
My parents live in Kyiv, so we spent a few days there, and planned to go to my wife’s parents in a Bila Tserkva in Kyiv region for a day or two on 23th of February. We had a good day together, as everyone had a day off, walking in a famous Oleksandria park and dining together in the house built from scratch by parents through their lifetime. And after that we went to sleep, happy and tired.
One of the guys I followed on Facebook who did a lot of volunteer work for the army over the last 8 years posted a small note “was going for a trip abroad, but the situation has changed and going back to Ukraine”. That got me a bit nervous.
My wife woke me up with a phrase I will remember for the rest of my life.
Viktor, get up, the war has started.
Then I heard the sounds of explosions in the distance. It’s still hard to hold the emotions when you remember the day your world got a crack. Things that you read in history books and thought are a legacy of a long forgotten uncivilized past with barbarians and empires colonizing other nation just because they can and talking of human rights was for marginal outcasts.
My wife woke up a bit earlier, from a notification on the phone from a Telegram channel that stated that Russia started to bomb Kharkiv, and then all over the country — Kyiv, Lutsk, Dnipro, and others. A bit later her sister phoned her parents. Then she heard the first explosions and woke me up.
From that day and till now it’s all turned into constant news check and contacting your loved ones, hoping to hear back from them under constant air raid alarm. Checking news to hear good news and hoping not to hear bad news. Waiting in the hall during alarms hoping that 2-wall rule will save you in case of a bomb explosion nearby. The internet was working all the time with minor disruptions even despite Russians were trying to destroy as much of our civilian infrastructure including cellar towers as possible to bring terror and chaos expecting us to surrender. Hearing from your loved ones, getting the information first hand from people on the fronts, from your government and volunteers, journalists you trust, bloggers and all sorts of influencers that stood up united to support each other did a lot to keep sanity over this time. There were no talking of going back to Kyiv at first, even though we left a part of out stuff there (my wife suggested to take all with us, just in case, but I didn’t listen, again), as there were massive attack on Kyiv from the Belarussian border including Russian air forces trying to deploy marines to airports near Kyiv and numbers of subversive intelligence groups that got inside Kyiv and city battles that took place occasionally all over the capital streets. Bombs and rockets, some shot by air defense but still fallen on the streets, some missed by the defenses destroying malls and living quarters. Strict curfew, martial law state, military checkpoints and troops of territorial defense patrolling the streets. Not the best time for visiting.
There were a lot of losses and pain in the day, even though, as we got to know later, the government was warned about it some time before. Many military bases were evacuated to bomb shelters, warplanes were in the air beforehand ready for air battles, air defense on military duty. There were treasons, heroism, tragedies all together. But what was the most important — we stood. Ukraine did not fall and people did not break. As we do today, despite the losses. United as never before. The calendar stopped that day, instead of 24th of February it became the 1st day. And even today it’s 133th day of war, National Liberation War.
The war has already created heroes, legends and memes. It has already created a unifying foundation for Ukrainians that were divided for so long between West and East, teared apart by empires and ideologies, even though always getting back together. Later there were Snake Island with the message to the Russian Warship, the Ghost of Kyiv, the heroes of Azovstal, the territorial defense of Kharkiv and so many more we know and even more that will be revealed later. Those who we lost would never be back, but we must do what we can to remember them and never let it happen again. But first we need to finish this one once and for all.
After a month and a bit, when Russian forces were pushed back from Kyiv and it was a bit safer to move, I went to Kyiv for enlistment office. I have a disability after cancer (possibly a long-term hello from another Soviet Union crime — Chernobyl tragedy). So I knew I would probably be recognized as unsuitable for duty, but this is war time and I never been to military institutions after cancer, so I was ready to accept whatever role I get. But it was eventually decided that I won’t be accepted to the army. In a few weeks we decided that it makes sense to return to Malta and today we are back in Malta.
The war brought a lot of tragedies, personal and global. But there is one single relief it brought — it put all masks down. From the fall of Soviet Union, after all the terrors of it and lies, people has forgotten their history, started to believe that we are all related nations and Ukraine and Russia are like cousins. So Ukrainians always treated Russians as friends. Yes, there were some frictions in politics, but mostly people didn’t pay much attention to it. Soviet Union taught us not too pay attention to politics and it became a matter of survival. Perhaps in the West of Ukraine there were more people who remembered. In 2014 Ukrainians already has decided that we want to develop closer relations with Europe, and when our president tried to steal it from us for no particular reason — people organized a demonstration to show that we do not agree. When the president decided that he can just beat them up to silence— we did not blindly accepted it. Yanukovych was a typical Soviet member of a party. An autocrat. He wanted to be the third one in the group of Putin and Lukashenko, keeping people in fear and obedience by force. But we were not broken and scared as we were half a century ago anymore. We healed over time. So we started a revolution against a dictator in his origin.
And that’s when Russia put down the mask. They used the brief moment of weakness, when Ukraine had no acting president in the middle of a transformation and using the Black Sea fleet that we agreed to host in Crimea to took over the region. And tried to do the same in Donetsk and Lugansk but failed and turned it into a warzone, turned a prosperous region into ruin, playing on emotions and fears of locals in the period of instability together with feeding them with their propaganda so that they let Russian forces in. Back in 2014 a regular Ukrainian soldier couldn’t imagine that he might need to shoot into a Russian and he had no supreme commander to give him a direct order. Back then Russia played a comedy that they are not there, that it’s Ukrainian people in Donetsk and Lugansk bought heavy vehicles and artillery in local grocery shop, learned how to use it on YouTube tutorials and fight with Ukrainian regular army. Even though the military equipment of types that is only present in Russian regular army, the commanders are with Russian passports, and all other things. The world then blindly accepted the Russian version, as there were no obvious mass murders and Russia is a big country, a partner and has oil with gas. Put some sanctions, that just scratched Russian economy, being an acceptable price for Russia. But the most painful strike was that Russians were ok with that. They blindly accepted the annexation of a territory of cousin nation, celebrating the “The Return of Crimea”, blindly accepted the war with Ukraine in the East. The deaths and suffering of their relatives. You might say, that they were fooled with propaganda, but the truth is — they choose propaganda. Over their relatives who was telling the truth, over every other internet resource stating anything conflicting the thesis of propaganda. And their presence in the world is much greater than Ukrainians. So their voice is louder and many people all over the world believe to their Russian colleagues, lacking Ukrainians. What can I say, even in Ukraine the Russian political party (disguised) managed to have it’s 15% support and people tend to not notice the thing about the war. We were not expecting this and Russia put a knife in our back, and it was not Putin, but every Russian who silently agreed with that.
But now, after 24th of February nothing can be masked anymore. Russians are the only people who still choose lies over the harsh truth and more they hold to it, the harder it will be to accept it. But perhaps, they are just happy with that, being a big powerful monster capable of eating other, being superior at least in something, over looking inside their own problems and admitting internal problems. But at least the world now sees what has actually happened and was happening all this time. Ukraine is an open country — journalists from all over the world can come see for themselves what is happening. There is nothing to hide from our side. We are fighting for the freedom and the democratic world.
From one side of a coin, Ukraine fights Russian invaders, who tries to succumb us as a whole for over 300 years already ruining childhood of every generation of Ukrainians under different disguises — Moscovia, Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Russia. From the other hand we fight with the past, for the future. For the democracy against the Dictatorship. Because even though Ukraine is crucial for Russians, they will never be full. As a classical empire, they will kill and rape till defeated. At first, Ukraine is a part of Russia, then Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were always a part of Russian from Soviet Union, then Poland and through Poland and Ukraine they will succumb the history of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, re-writing history and claiming every neighbor one by one as they always did.
But it won’t happen. Because it ends in Ukraine. Because Ukraine will never fall and finally our western allies are together with us, being our reliable back. And together we will defeat this monstrosity, threatening the world to be colonized or destroyed. And there will be peace again.
But today we fight.