I have learned many things about war since Russia invaded Ukraine. Some sad, some funny, some strange. One of the things that has amazed me is how life in war goes on. It gets twisted, some might say perverted, but life does go on. Not always happily, but people try to make the best of things until they can’t.
I saw a photograph of a young Ukrainian couple both wearing army style fatigues. They made a lovely couple. They were surrounded by soldiers. They were both members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense forces. They were getting married. In the middle of war! Can you imagine?
During television coverage of the Russian War on Ukraine I learned that disease does not stop for war. That certainly applies to infectious diseases, including Covid-19 and others. That can cause a lot of problems in a country in which only 1/3rd of the people are vaccinated. Ukrainians, like people of many countries, but particularly like people in the former Soviet states, don’t trust the state. They have good reason not to trust the those governments that were very economical with the truth. Would you trust such a government that tried to persuade you to inject a foreign substance into your body? That lack of trust has profound consequences for a country like Ukraine, just as it did on a lesser scale for Canada and the United States.
During the war hospitals were unsafe places to be found. We had been assured by the Russians that their missiles and artillery would only target military structures, but soon we noticed they also destroyed hospitals or at least made them dangerous places. As a result in one hospital in the Ukraine all the expectant mothers were moved to the basement where beds were established with mattresses on the floor. Many were lying in one big room with social distancing impossible. What kind of care do they get there? Is this worse than Manitoba ICU patients being sent to Ontario? Where are Ukrainian ICU patients? I guess when your city is being bombed who worries about Covid-19, but what about those in hospital that need urgent care?
We were all touched by stories of people fleeing the country. They seemed scary. I remember an image of a young mother with her very young child with large bewildered eyes. The child seemed to want to know what was going on. The mother clutched a pet dog to her chest and a small cage for 2 budgies as her child hung on for dear life. Could you abandon pets during a war? The husband was left behind to fight. He had no choice. The group was in a massive line-up outside a railway car. They were hoping to get on I, but there were many more people than there were spaces available.
Then there were refugees in Poland. Early on 1,000,000 Ukrainian refugees were struggling with their families in Poland to find places to stay. Thousands crammed in refugee centres with many more outside. The eyes of young women often glazed over with fear, and above all fatigue, from lining up for hours with young children who just don’t know what is happening. Young men were left behind to fight. There was a young man who had accompanied his wife and children to the train station helping them leave. You could infer that the family was in grave doubt about whether or not they would ever see him again.
I saw images of an old Ukrainian woman being trained to use a rifle to fend off Russian attackers. How effective will that be? Yet is it better to do nothing?
I saw an interview with a young Canadian man who decided to leave his wife behind in Canada with their 11-month old child so he could go to Ukraine to fight the invaders. Why did he feel compelled to leave his family to go so far to help others? Was he heroic? Or foolish? What makes sense?
In one of the already iconic images of this war, we saw an elderly Ukrainian Baba confronting a rifle-toting Russian soldier offering him sunflower seeds for his pockets, so that when he dies on the streets of Ukraine, sunflowers can grow and bloom out of his corpse. Later in scenes from the Legislature in Winnipeg I saw a poster of a Ukrainian Canadian offering more sunflower seeds for Russia.
I saw images of Ukrainian teenagers preparing Molotov Cocktails and camouflage sheets for soldiers. Is that course now added to the school curriculum?
There are horrendous images of schools, hospitals, and apartment complexes blasted by Russian shelling. Are these military targets?
More than 1 million Ukrainians are now refugees outside the country. More than 50% of these are children. None of those children asked for this.
I saw a video of a young Ukrainian man l playing a John Lennon tune on the piano at the border of Poland and Ukraine. What a welcome for fleeing refugees.
We were told a story about Canadians, and others, booking rooms at Ukrainian B & B’s without hope of ever using them, just to support real life Ukrainians.
A Ukrainian man was seen driving a truck on a highway stopping at a Russian tank that has run out of gasoline when the driver asked him the tank driver if he could tow him back to Russia.
But I also saw a photograph of two young Ukrainian children who died on the street, and were covered with a tarp that reminded of my tenting tarp.
There was a video of a Ukrainian financial securities expert taking training to operate a rifle. He said, “It’s my duty.”
We were shown old World War I trenches are being resurrected. Who ever thought we would see the return of trench warfare to Europe?
One weeping woman in a car with her children cried that her hometown no longer exists. It is just “gone,” she says. The children look perplexed. No, they look dumbfounded.
We saw long lines of people on streets fleeing some undescribed danger. Some were carrying weary children. Others carrying pets. How can they do it?
Another young woman was trying to reduce the trauma of war for her young children by convincing them that the air raid sirens they heard were a part of a children’s game. There is nothing to fear, she assured them. She was lying of course. She lied to her children for their own good.