FOR THE RIGHT TO BE FREE – A message from Ukraine

Collage by Oksana Kartavtseva, Kyiv, March 2022

I am not a military journalist, I am an ordinary citizen of Ukraine, an art critic, a member of the National Union of Artists, and in this short article I will not going to analyze military operations and offer the reader political discussions, this will be done by politicians, military men and diplomats. I will only talk about some details of the life of ordinary Ukrainians in the new realities of the war.

Ukrainians are genetically arranged in such a way that a big problem that has arisen in their life can initially shock them and even frighten them a little. And then get angry. Very angry. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Russian war. We were warned about the possibility of an invasion several months in advance, but we did not want to believe, even we could not believe that the once-friendly Russian people, with whom we had been connected by family and friendship for centuries, could kill Ukrainian children, bomb Ukrainian cities and villages. It seemed unthinkable! But this madness has become a reality of our lives.

Bombing, airstrikes, and total destruction of civilians, their houses and nation-important objects. Air raid sirens almost every hour, empty store shelves, many hours queues at pharmacies and banks… Women give birth in bomb shelters… And constant fear, fear, fear, fear, endless fatigue, anxiety for relatives and friends.

And now, the first shock has passed. The most ordinary people unite in self-defense units, patrol the streets, catch and punish marauders. They cook “Molotov cocktails” at home (home-made explosives that are sealed in ordinary glass bottles. Back on the days of WW2 with its help, partisans used it to blew up Nazi’ tanks and other military vehicles. Homeless people come to the rescue – they collect bottles in all the neighborhoods and bring them to self-defense points. On the way to one of the Ukrainian villages, people came out to meet Russian tanks without weapons and stopped a column of military equipment and did not let it into their village.

Special mention should be made of the gypsies who simply stole a Russian tank. 

The trouble united the people of Ukraine from the West to the East, from the North to the South. Everyone tries to help each other with food, medicine, money, a kind word of support. And of course I have to say about the Ukrainian President and the army. They do incredible!

“The suitcases became unsettling, and the journey to Europe became an evacuation. And March 1 is no longer the first day of spring, but the sixth day of the war. And “Palyanytsya” (the name of Ukrainian bread, which is difficult for Russian people to pronounce) became a password. And “Russian ship, go fuck yourself!” – greeting. All of Ukraine has become one big temple where people pray everywhere – in basements, in tanks and in houses. And God hears our prayers,” the famous Ukrainian writer Olena Rog wrote on her page.

This is not just a war between Russia and Ukraine. This is a war for the right to be free, to decide the fate of your country yourself. We are a very peaceful people and love our Motherland, our history and culture. We, like other country, have our own problems, but we will solve them without outside help, especially military.

The people who made the decision to start a full-scale war against Ukraine miscalculated. They underestimated the power of her army, the unity of her people, and the extent of her support for Ukraine.   Ganna Lavrekha in Kyiv,  6th March 2022


Ganna Lavrekha, art critic, member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine. At the time of writing she was sheltering in Kyiv