The Swamp logo

Crying and Praying for Ukraine

One country's fight for freedom is a test of global democracy

By Lana V LynxPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 6 min read
By Oleh Smal, Ukrainian political cartoonist

I'm Russian. Russian American, to be exact, and I am conflicted and broken. I have not slept much this week because the megalomaniac paranoid president of Russia, my second home country, invaded the country my grandparents' ancestors came from - Ukraine.

I do not have immediate family in Ukraine. My closest family is in southern Russia, a two-hour drive from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. There used to be trains running there directly, and those are only a happy distant memory now. I do have extended family in many places of the world: Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Germany, US, and... Ukraine. With many, we stopped talking "politics" after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and my big extended family got split on both sides of the conflict. I have to admit many of my family members cheered on the annexation, which was a complete shock for me.

I have friends in and from Ukraine with whom I go so far back that I consider them my family more than some of my "lost" family members. One of those friends is my CEU classmate, a brilliant political scientist and civil activist who I used to tease about running for the Ukrainian president. He served as a volunteer in the Ukrainian defense units fighting the rogue Donetsk-Luhansk Russia-backed separatists since 2014. He went to defend Kyiv yesterday (Feb.23) and I'm worried sick about him. Luckily, I'm able to communicate with his wife, who just told me that the Russian attacks on Kyiv are particularly vicious at night. The defenders need to stand and survive till the morning light, each night. Because Putin's hellhounds hide from the daylight. I pray for my brave friend often. And I am not even religious and don't really know how to pray.

I have another Ukrainian friend who I met here in the US in 2014. He is now volunteering with the International Red Cross in Kyiv, helping people who suddenly found themselves in the 21st century urban warfare. He has a lot of faith in the ICRC emblem and the power of this international institution. I'm worried sick for him as well, while trying to comprehend the idea of the 21st century urban warfare in a peaceful European country. The stuff of dystopian novels...

My Ukrainian family here - a young, vibrant couple I met at LSU in 2004 with then one child and now five - is feeling helpless and distressed. Their parents still live in Kyiv and they are worried sick about them hunkering down in basements and subway stations for shelter at night. We talked yesterday, venting and crying on both sides, refusing to believe what is happening and wondering what can be done. As individuals, our ability to do something is limited. We share information on social media, trying to cut through the Russian mis- and dis-information and FoxNews trolls' noise. We sign petitions, send letters and call our legislators, donate money where we can. I wish I lived closer to a city where there are street protests, rallies, and vigils for Ukraine. I see a lot of people gathering in New York, DC, San Francisco, Atlanta, and all over Europe and long to be among them, in that sea of solidarity and determination.

These days, I often recall an episode from 1994. I was studying at CEU then and we had an important speaker, a US representative to some European organization (I want to say OSCE, but not sure). He was a political appointee with a business background and no diplomatic experience. When one of my Ukrainian classmates asked him if Ukraine could ever hope to become a NATO or EU member (the European Union expansion was happening at the accelerated rate at the time), he bluntly said that it was highly unlikely because Ukraine was needed as a "buffer" between the West and Russia. I remember how shocked we all were by this straightforwardness. Our international relations professor at the time, brilliant Dr. Stefano Guzzini, rolled his eyes in disbelief and said, "Even if you think things like this, as a diplomate you never utter them outloud!"

Ukraine IS a buffer, as it turns out now. It is standing by itself, proudly and bravely fighting for its freedom against Putin's hordes. The long arc of history has bent, returning in a spiral, and Ukraine is a barrier again on the way of darkness setting onto Europe from the East. Different hordes, same existential threat, and Oleh Smal's 2014 cartoon is as true today as it was then. I hope the West understands the Ukrainian people's sacrifice.

I know the West's options are limited. Ukrainians understand it as well, they gave up on the idea of the West standing with them 8 years ago when Putin annexed Crimea and backed the separatist statelets in Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukrainians had been preparing for the war, and are much stronger now. But Putin was not sitting idle either. I scroll through the news every day to see if the Ukrainian cities still hold and if Putin's legions managed to cut off the eastern part of Ukraine they chauvinistically call Novorossiya. It's Putin's wet dream, to build the corridor all the way to Odessa on the Black Sea by gobbling up the eastern pieces of Ukraine he craves so much. I can only imagine how surprised and shocked he is to see the resistance Ukrainians put up as he thought he'd happily roll in there on tanks as a liberator, just like in those pictures from WW2 he remembers as a kid, in which the Soviets were greeted with flowers, hugs, and smiles in Europe. I pray for Ukrainians to hold out and continue their resistance.

I do not know how this will end. The world is dealing with a crazed paranoid dictator wannabe-global-tsar waving a nuclear grenade. He has nothing to lose as he burnt all bridges. He doesn't care anymore if Russia is invited to G-20 or rejected as a host of sporting events. He probably doesn't care much about the freeze of his financial assets or personal travel bans. Where would he want to go now anyway, when even in his own country he keeps everyone at a distance of 20 feet? He has a palace in Gelenjik where he can lock himself down and have all his travel, sporting and entertainment needs met. Not like he wants to expand his horizons through tourism and globe-trotting. So he is perfectly happy staying behind the tall Kremlin walls and fences of 24 presidential palaces scattered all over Russia for his fishing, hunting, and horse-riding pleasure. As happy as a paranoid dictator can be, that is.

There's very little chance he'd be overthrown from within, as some naive believers in peace and democracy hope. Putin has defenestrated, poisoned and imprisoned all opposition in Russia. Those brave people who came out this week with "No war!" signs in Moscow and St.Pete ended up beaten by the police and in jails. My only bet is on the Russian oligarchs, who do enjoy the perks of luxurious life and travel in the West. I have a slither of hope that feeling the squeeze of severe Western sanctions, they will stage a coup against Putin and remove him from power. But that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a convoy of tanks and armored vehicles is moving toward Kyiv, Kharkiv's apartment blocks are being shelled mercilessly and people in Ukraine are dying. While the whole world is watching in shock, gawking at what may turn out to be the start of WW3.

Pray for Ukraine. Stand with Ukraine. Do whatever you can for this nightmare to end.


About the Creator

Lana V Lynx

Avid reader and occasional writer of satire and dystopia under a pen name of my favorite wild cat.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.