At a crossroads
The year 2023 was not only a year of pain and suffering for many Ukrainians but also a year of disappointment. During this year, the fairy tale of a quick victory, in which many Ukrainians somehow believed without understanding the realities of the battlefield, collapsed. The painful, inhumane, bloody, and dirty reality of war has become so loud that it has crushed this fairy tale. With the disappearance of the illusion, many people have lost hope and faith. But without them, we will not survive.
It seems to be a simple lesson in high math. We have left point A of space-time and will never return to it. Our task is to get to point B, which seems to beckon us with its reachability. But this is where the simplicity ends because the coordinates of point B are not fixed: they depend on the observer’s state of mind. Their faith and hope bring this point closer, while their disbelief pushes it into the hazy remoteness. We become weak-willed toys of other people’s cunning news if we don’t realize this. And then we feel bad. This is the first mistake, as the proverb states: “Do not be enchanted, and you will not become disappointed."
At such a crossroads, our conclusions particularly depend on seemingly “obvious” presumptions. Do you remember this notorious statement? “We must recognize the obvious: Russia is incomparably stronger than Ukraine and, therefore, will conquer it in a week.” A lot of respected experts have fallen into the trap of this “obviousness”! After the liberation of the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, the second “obvious” slogan arrived: “Next year, we will be in Bakhchisarai!”. And this was a trap again. Today, we again hear the loud voice of supporters of the first “obvious” statement: “It’s as we have told you! Let’s be realistic”. Well, a person cannot live without presumptions. However, when changing events give rise to opposite presumptions, it becomes clear that it is foolish to rely on them. Otherwise, we will make another mistake.
You can find a lot of such mistakes in Ukraine’s social conscience. But at the beginning of the New Year, we don’t want to discuss them; we want to believe in miracles. Today, looking at our problems from a different perspective is essential. Then, it will turn out that our current weaknesses, under certain conditions, can become a source of our strength.
Ukraine’s eternal misfortune has been “atamanship,” that is the unwillingness of Ukrainians to fit into vertical command hierarchies. However, just this trait has facilitated the initiative actions of grassroots commanders at the front line today. That is, traditional Ukrainian “volnitsa” (freemenship) became not a negation but a complement to the command hierarchy, making the Ukrainian Armed Forces stronger.
Despite the residuals of paternalism, when a significant part of the population still considers “tops,” i.e., high authorities responsible for its fate, Ukraine’s society has a healthy backbone demonstrating incredible self-sufficiency. These are, in particular, various components of civil society: NGOs, volunteers, chaplains, philanthropic entrepreneurs, gunsmiths, rescuers, doctors, etc. Today, when the fog of the lowlands has once again enveloped the souls of the desperate, it is up to the creative and proactive part of society to find a way out of the newly created deadlocks quickly and effectively. The creative potential of Ukraine is incredible and needs only to be facilitated in every way possible. As for the “tops”, let’s listen to well-known Ukrainian philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda: “The life of a ruler is about restraint, renunciation, and getting rid of excess."
Despite the cynicism of the morally rotten, who build their prosperity in the midst and at the expense of the grief of others, Ukraine, for a long time, had not had so many ascetics who believed in the saving power of the human spirit when Ukraine faced the problem of preserving our values and our state as such. It was they who, inspired by the revolutionary Maidans (squares) and the sacrifice of volunteers, restored meaning to such concepts as conscience and honor, solidarity and self-sacrifice, will and rank. In doing so, they changed the face of the Ukrainian land and set an example for the whole world.
Communities can believe in a bright or a dark future. Ukrainian society has gone through a lot and achieved a lot, but it is not always ready to realize that the future is not entirely determined and can be changed. We either accept our future or work on it. A strong faith is based on values whose comprehension comes through struggle and trials.
So, we must turn our pain and disappointment from our weakness to our strength. We have to learn lessons of maturity from them. We must realize that war is not a show, and our army is not a football team. We are not just spectators of a soccer match; each of us is an atom in larger molecules that make up the body of the Ukrainian army. If you are not in the army, you should help the military as much as possible. For example, by donations or volunteering. It is difficult for those who have not lived through the horrors of war to understand those who have. Anyway, we all can be a single body, each part of which works for one goal: to protect our land, to protect our freedom and lives.
We will manage to survive only if our resistance to this sinister Russian gloom remains nationwide. Each of us, tens of millions of Ukrainian citizens, wherever we are, must feel and understand that our victory is impossible without active and selfless personal participation in this struggle.
Members of the “December First” initiative group: