CHENNAI: Why didn’t I ever visit this country before the war?” a German journalist recently tweeted from Ukraine, expressing disappointment with herself for never having bothered to visit in peacetime and see the magnificent streets of Lviv and Odesa. Many in the West feel similarly. It was only after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February that scores of journalists, politicians and aid workers traveled to the country for the first time. Never since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has Ukraine garnered the kind of attention it is receiving today. Travel recommendations have arisen from a war.
The above-mentioned journalist is right to feel annoyed with herself. She will never know the old Ukraine — and this goes beyond what’s been visibly damaged by the conflict. The old post-Soviet Ukraine is disappearing, dying in the Russian onslaught, and taking with it people, homes, factories — and illusions.
Never again will Ukraine and Russia share the positive, fraternal connection they did before the war. Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea had already driven a wedge between Ukrainians and Russians. Now they couldn’t be more estranged. Future generations on both sides will be consumed by mutual hatred and anger. August 24 was Ukraine’s independence day. This year, celebrations will be a sad and sombre, but also a defiant affair. It will be six months to the day that Russia launched its war on Ukraine in a barbaric campaign to destroy its independence. Ukraine has bled and it has suffered, but it has not fallen — it fights on!
This war is the most fundamental threat Ukraine and its people have faced in 100 years. The last time it faced such grave danger was when the Bolsheviks forcefully ended Ukraine’s brief spell as an independent state and then embarked on a campaign of Russification. Can history repeat itself? There is no doubt that this is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to achieve. His declared goal of “de-Nazification” is really an attempt at “de-Ukraineification.” Reports from Russian-held regions in Ukraine relate how occupying forces are working to suppress and destroy Ukrainian culture, chiefly its language. Putin’s insane plan is to annihilate Ukraine in a war of attrition. Yet he will fail.
The Russian president launched his assault on the old Ukraine. To him, it looked like easy prey: Ukraine’s economy and military were inferior to Russia’s, its political sphere and society were often polarised, and support from the West was only half-hearted. Much of this was simple fact — and yet it was still a colossal misjudgment.
Now, six months after Russia first sent troops into Ukraine, Putin is dealing with a new, nascent Ukraine. The transformation began earlier, but Russia’s onslaught has accelerated this change. This new Ukraine is rapidly abandoning many of the things that long connected it to Russia: a shared language, shared street names, monuments and so on. And most importantly: This new Ukraine is learning how to defend itself. And it’s learning fast. The country is stronger militarily than ever before, and it is growing stronger still — in part, of course, because of Western assistance, but also because of its own determination. Present-day Ukraine is more resilient than it was 100 years ago thanks to its “independence generation.”
At 44, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was born in the former Soviet Union, is on the older end of this generation. But it’s 20 to 30-year-old Ukrainians who form the heart of the country’s resistance. They are fighting on the frontlines and sacrificing their lives, helping support the armed forces in a civilian capacity or tending to internally displaced people. This generation feels truly Ukrainian; it is totally natural to them. And for this, they are willing to fight. And they will succeed.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle