Conversations in Ukraine



In an approach to share the public reflections of conflict in Ukraine, I spoke with a few individuals living in and around Kyiv, with the objective to promulgate their convictions.


Daria Pavovska


Daria, 26, lives in Kyiv where she works in sales for a professional cosmetics company. Much of an intellectual, Daria enjoys reading an array of literature and dedicates her extra time to music and poetry.


“Good afternoon, my name is Daria. [The conflict] doesn't affect my daily life in any way. I live as I lived, go to work, meet friends. I do not deliberately argue the news, only if I hear something from someone. The last thing I saw was that Putin said that he also does not want war because he understands that the consequences can be terrible. I personally understand that people like me live in Russia. People who have their own families and who value their lives, and who also do not want war. In my environment, too, no one wants war. I believe that in our time the toughest war is the information war.”


“We just don't hear each other and don't understand each other, and because of our selfishness, we don't even try. It's very sad, but what to do. If I'm going to die without seeing the Northern Lights and Niagara Falls, then so be it. I’ve reconciled.”


“I would like to somehow influence this situation, but can one person change something? Alone, no, but together we could at least try. Strength is in unity. We are all inhabitants of the same planet. Our main problem as humanity is that the planet is suffering. We destroy her and ourselves.”


President Putin, on numerous occasions, has spoken on behalf a notion in which he deems Russians and Ukrainians alike, as “one people.” What is your take?


“I also see us as one people. We still have not recovered from the collapse of the USSR.”


“We are just different members of the same family, and in every family there are quarrels.”


“We can come to an understanding if we at least try to listen to each other. This is our chance to grow up, we are tired of the war. We want peace for ourselves, and we want peace for other countries. We do not want to die or lose our precious land just because one did not understand the other.”


Are there any resolutions you may foresee being made?


“I am not a politician. I can only rely on my own experience. But from my experience I can say, you need to speak, you need to tell the truth, you need to discuss and come to something. War will not solve anything, but only aggravate everything. I think people are old enough to understand that. I see it in myself and in the people around me. We must stop looking for differences and try to find common ground. We are just different members of the same family.”


“In any family everyone has the right to personal boundaries. Everyone in the family has their own opinion and their own truth. Everyone has their own interests and they do not always coincide with the interests of other family members. But that's no reason to kill each other.”


Olga Savitska, Alona Smahliuk & Tanya


Olga is a college student from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city located in the northeast about 18 miles from the border. While studying foreign languages, she works simultaneously as a translator. To fulfill her creative side, she partakes in freelance work as a photographer.


Alona, who is from Drabiv, a village in the Cherkasy region south of Kyiv, currently works out of Thailand as an interface designer for a Denmark startup. There, she lives with her husband to escape the undesirable winter in Ukraine. While geographically afar, she is “mentally in Ukraine.”


Tanya lives in Kyiv and works as an IT specialist in the city. A native to independent Ukraine, she does not conceal her loyalty to the nation. “I was raised to love our Motherland.”


CS: To get an overall consensus, what is your outlook on the current conflict at the border?


Tanya: Ukraine has been suffering from Russian aggression since 2014. This war took a lot of lives, and we still have human losses every month. It is horrible, but unfortunately, Russia doesn't want to stop.


Olga: The conflict on the border is totally unacceptable because it’s a threat to the sovereign of our country


Alona: First of all, I want to say that it’s not big news. Russian separatists started to invade Ukraine since 2014. So the past years, especially when Zelensky become a president, I live with knowing that, at any time, the situation can be changed, and not in a good way. It’s Russia. So now it’s happening.


But for overall consensus, Russia is an aggressor and definitely invading Ukrainians sovereignty. It is unacceptable.


CS: Have you noticed the threat at the border cause much strife or change in everyday life?


Tanya: Everyone talks about the growing threat of Russian invasion. We know that Russian terrorists continue artillery shelling at the eastern border and accuse it of Ukrainian armed forces. Also, Russia tried to fake some attacks the last few days. Frankly speaking, these accusations are just ridiculous, so we know they are trying to find a significant reason to attack more Ukrainian territories.


Olga: Russian threats have influenced everyday life. Even though the past 8 years weren’t peaceful and calm, we’re talking more about the invasion, possibilities, packing “anxiety bags” with documents and necessary stuff, and trying to spread the news on the internet in order to increase the awareness of other countries.


Alona: Even when I’m not in Ukraine, I’m hearing about Russian invasion from every corner. All my friends are talking about it, my IG feed will explode, and all the people I’m meeting here in Thailand ask me about it, telling me they are sorry and that it’s totally unacceptable. All my friends at home are literally holding their breath. Some of the people I know are leaving the country worrying about their lives.


CS: How do you feel about Putin’s claims that he sees Russians and Ukrainians as one people?


Tanya: Everyone in Ukraine wants to live in peace in our beautiful country and not worry every single day about some madman who is trying to take away our independence and our lives.


You know, most people don't want to run and hide. Ukraine had some hard times gaining our independence, and now we won't let anyone take it away. We will fight back for our freedom, for our families, and our land. Ukraine will never surrender!


We understand that Putin will never stop if we let him continue attacks, and remain unpunished. It concerns not only Ukraine. Russia should be stopped for the sake of all European countries.


Olga: Putin made an hour-long speech where he proves that he barely knows the history.


In his speech, he denies not only the existence of Ukraine as a country with its own history but all other countries that became independent after the breakdown of the Soviet Union.


Everyone who studied history at least in school can understand that it’s nothing more than propaganda and fake news.


Alona: I become furious when somebody tells me that.


What Putin sees and what the situation is – is much different from what you can imagine. And to be honest, I didn’t think the difference is so obvious before I started traveling and meeting people abroad. Ukrainians and Russians behave very differently. Even in situations when you meet someone from your country abroad.


Ukrainians are: Hey, are you from Ukraine? How long you’ve been here? What city do I live in? *nicely talking*


Russians when hearing Russian language be like: *silently passing by with a poker face*


I of course understand that not all Russians are the same and I have friends from Russia here on the island where I live, but that example shows clearly the difference.


CS: Do you see US president Joe Biden as an instigator/contributor at all?


Tanya: We thank all the countries for their support, and we will kindly ask for further help in the fight against evil.


Olga: I think that the U.S. President has to keep his word and use the promised sanctions against Russia because a new wave of aggression has already happened and it’s extra important to take measures and stick to the agreement.


Alona: Yes, I think it’s good to have such support. Ukraine needs that!


CS: How would you describe Zelensky’s overall approval rating since he took Presidency?


Olga: Since Zelensky became President, he proved that he can not only give speeches on tv and the internet, but he’s ready to work as a politician and take effective measures if needed.


After his last speech in Munich, a lot of doubters started to support the President. He had shown that he’s calm and ready to act and his main goal is to calm down his citizens and resolve the conflict in a peaceful way.


Alona: Oh, I’m not a fan of Zelensky.

More of the previous Ukrainian President - Petro Poroshenko. So my own ratings for Zelensky are below the plinth... I don’t know if Americans say that, in other words very low. Looking at overall approval from my environment, people are not so happy. But most of them didn’t vote for Zelensky.


CS: What do you anticipate happening moving forward?


Olga: I hope the countries that promised support and imposition of sanctions against Russia will do it as soon as possible. We must understand that it’s not only a Russian-Ukrainian conflict, but a global threat from a totalitarian country.


I want to believe that international organizations will take effective measures according to legislation, because there is no way to permit war in the middle of Europe in the 21st century.

However, Ukrainians are ready to fight to defend their country and its independence.


Alona: Hard to answer. Ideally, we got Ukrainians lands back and Russians back off. But this doesn’t have any connection with reality and Russia can’t just let us go. I wish Ukraine joined NATO when the opportunity was…


I’m not good in politics, and don’t really understand how such conflicts are solving diplomatically and without war. So emotionally my thoughts just “Hands off from Ukraine “ and rationally I wish we had more experienced President to meet such aggression.



Jake


Jake is an American who was living and working as a volunteer English in Kyiv. Having recently returned to the states for unrelated reasons, he plans to return in the coming months.


“The conflict has been ongoing since 2014 so it’s been a part of everyday life in Ukraine for a very long time. Most of the Ukrainians I know haven’t expressed increased concern because it’s something they’ve been living under the threat of for so long, they’ve accepted it. With the Western media paying more attention to it now, it seems like it’s fanning the flames so to speak. It isn’t really present in conversation and life seems to be going on as usual. There are many ex-pats that I know who are more concerned than the local Ukrainians.”


What is your understanding of the popular opinion on the matter?


“The government of Ukraine is doing a good job in urging people to remain calm in the face of this because they’re aware of Russia’s tactics of inciting civil unrest before military action. Many ex-pats are concerned however with the US and UK governments stating that there won’t be any help for them if they decide to stay in Ukraine. A real fear for the ex-pat community is that they’ll be stuck there during a mass evacuation and facing things like wild increased commercial flights to leave and not being able to cross the land borders due to Covid restrictions that change daily. An example would be Poland not allowing Americans to cross the border by land so the only way to get to Poland is by air travel.


What do you think about Putin’s claims that he sees Russians and Ukrainians as one people?


“Looking at the history of the region, Ukraine has only been a country in its own right since 1989 when the USSR fell. It had been traditionally Russian territory until that for much longer. Ukraine has a cultural division between the East & Western parts of the country. There is more Russian support in the East than the West.”


“However there is still a sentiment for most Ukrainians that they don’t want to be governed by Russia because of what it’s done in the past, namely for the mass exportation of food that caused the starvation deaths of roughly 7M Ukrainians sometime in the late 1930s.”


“Russia most definitely does see Ukraine as its own and they fully believe that they’re retaking their own territory. However, Ukraine is its own independent nation and fully believes that sentiment, which is why you see so many willing to defend their homeland.”


What direction do you think further progression will lead?


“The main concern I have that would point towards conflict is the amount of logistics [Russia] is taking Russia to stage these sustained “military drills”. To support that number of soldiers on rotational deployment is a huge cost & investment which indicates that there’s more going on than Russia is saying officially but that’s just speculation on my part. I’m hopeful that this conflict will be resolved diplomatically. However, it’s seeming less and less likely that will happen given the current political climate and position of the US and NATO.”


“For the sake of Ukraine, I pray that there will be no invasion because of the true devastation that would occur within the country through a conventional force in force conflict. I feel at this point, each side is waiting for something to break before taking any decisive action so that they can appear justified in whatever action they take.”