In a project of Suspilne Culture – “No brotherhood – there wasn't one, isn't and will never be” people from across Ukraine's creative and cultural industries explain in their columns, how Russia has been trying to destroy Ukrainian identity for years (or even centuries).
All materials will be published in both Ukrainian and English. Russia's informational aggression has been a part of the daily discourse in Ukraine for a long time, especially after Maidan in 2014. Now we need to make this context available abroad to show that we've been fighting this war for way more than just a month.
Ukrainian writer Roman Malynovskyi tells how the perception of safe space among Ukrainians has changed due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and how the reality of Israel has become a new reality for the civilized world.
Ukrainian version is available here.
Translated from Ukrainian by Maryna Bakalo.
Last year, a friend of mine worked on a project that involved specialists from various fields. The team was extensive and consisted of people from all over the world – Milan, Munich, Paris, Rotterdam, and Porto. They were designers, programmers, and logistics. Fifteen people, ten countries, and four continents were united for a common purpose. Everyone performed their own fragment of work, coordinating at group online meetings. The meeting time always required careful planning due to geography: +2 GMT – Kyiv, -8 – Los Angeles, +10 – Melbourne. In their meetings, they mixed 19 time zones. Some were on air with their morning coffee, which they drank at dawn. Others were wrapped in blankets because they got out of bed in the middle of the night. Some had lunch while others had dinner. Children were running behind someone because it was the time they were just going to bed.
The team included a girl from Tel Aviv called Taliia. There was another call. It was 8 p.m. in Kyiv. On 15 monitors scattered around the world, the same image was displayed, presenting fifteen small rectangles, each of which contained familiar faces. Barcelona, Dresden, Mumbai. Everyone has the comfort of a home space behind them: shelves with books in different languages, plasma TVs, paintings, wallpaper with plant patterns. From time to time, a cup of drink appeared on several screens that said, “It's six in the morning. I won't wake up without coffee,” explains Andrew from Melbourne.
At some stage of the meeting, Taliia wedged herself into the smoothness of the conversation that was held according to the agreed plan. She turned on the microphone, and everyone else heard the sound coming from her house. That was a siren. It was loud and stringy, shrill, obsessive, stubborn. At that moment, its howl was heard in Tel Aviv and in the homes of everyone who had contacted each other in Munich, Helsinki, and Lublin. Taliia's words that she had to leave the chat and go down to the bomb shelter overlapped that sound. No questions; there was not a moment to lose. She turned off the computer screen.
Next week, Taliia was back at a group meeting. There was a usual interior of a private space behind her: the soft yellow light of a wall lamp, a bookshelf at arm's length from the table, Hebrew and English books on the shelves. Before the meeting started, the moderator had asked Taliia if everything was alright. She reassured with the words "everything is fine" and said that she should warn she could leave such meetings because of air alarms which signaled a missile strike. Taliia said that such air alarms were common for Tel Aviv and the whole of Israel. Sometimes everything ends in a bombing, so in no case should they neglect sirens. Every time, they should go to the bomb shelter.
"Bomb shelter?", – the moderator asked again.
Taliia said that every Israeli home had a shelter. It is part of the mandatory layout of the house: rooms, bathroom, kitchen, and concrete shelter. This necessity is more important than anything else and is a part of the space that can save lives. When an architect plans a house for Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem, they reserve shelter space. It should be proportional to the number of residents that the house is designed for: bathroom, water, and food supplies, blankets. "We spend part of our lives there," Taliia said while fifteen colleagues in their safe homes in every part of the world were listening to her. "If you count all the time we live in a bomb shelter, it will equal several years. It's usual for us."
"Just imagine," my friend said, retelling this story, "You expect missile strikes all the time. You live anticipating an attack because the danger is the norm. Can you imagine such savagery?".
I heard this story from him in the fall of 2020.
A year and a half have passed, and the siren warning of possible bombing has covered our cities, and the way to the bomb shelter has become our regular route. That siren, which sounded from Tel Aviv, sings its mournful song in every Ukrainian city, signaling missiles. This is a different war, with a different enemy, and different missiles, but the same danger, the same aggression, the same hatred for the "difference". We go down to bomb shelters in our cities because "someone" decided that there should be no Ukrainians. That is, we don't deserve any territory, independence, as well as the language, traditions, or identity. " Someone" decided that all this should be destroyed, together with people, just to be sure.
With the outbreak of war and our resistance, the world will never again be the same as it used to be before February 24. Everything will be different: our hopes, habits, aspirations. And our houses will become symbols of this, and they will also change, so each will have a bomb shelter. We will arrange comfort in our brand new private spaces because now we will have to live in them.
I often think about this change and a break deep inside us. We will no longer be calm. We will always remember that the bombing can start any second, as soon as "someone" decides. The ruins of our cities and mourning ribbons will remind us of this every day — lists of those killed who were both military and civilian. There are also inscriptions on houses, markers of special safe rooms: hiding places, bomb shelters. The room is made of concrete, and steel, without windows. This will be security for us. The days when we experienced it under the open sky are already in the past.
We all understand that this war will never end, and peace with the Russians will always be temporary. We can see this in the cruelty and hatred with which they kill civilians, and attack hospitals, schools, train stations, and evacuation trains. Barbarians who hide behind ballet, Dostoievskyi, and Brodskyi to pass themselves off as civilization, destroy, kill, and rape. Russians present anti-civilization.
And this anti-civilization galvanizes, so it spreads, grows, presses, absorbing territories. To stop it, the modern world must build a wall in front of Russia – a large monolithic wall of sanctions, restrictions, checks, bans, and eliminations. While this wall does not exist, we, citizens of civilized states, will need other walls made of concrete and metal, without windows, placed underground. As long as Russia exists, we will all need bomb shelters.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Suspilne Culture.
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