Open letter from Ukrainian woman living in Sheffield

Olena Mandrik is an Ukrainian-born researcher working at the University of Sheffield. Here is her plea as her home country remains under attack.
Olena Mandrik is an Ukrainian-born researcher working at the University of Sheffield. Her parents are from Kyiv.Olena Mandrik is an Ukrainian-born researcher working at the University of Sheffield. Her parents are from Kyiv.
Olena Mandrik is an Ukrainian-born researcher working at the University of Sheffield. Her parents are from Kyiv.

“Dear Friends,

It is more than a week since the war began in Ukraine. More than a week that my country is covered in blood. More than a week since, without any provocation, Russia – under the orders of President Vladimir Putin – started bombing Ukrainian cities, killing civilians.

These include women with children – and also the elderly – fleeing living their homes with just backpacks. But the way to safety is long. Civilians risk being shot by the Russian army immorally firing at those who pass within so-called “green corridor” unless they agree to evacuate to Russia and being held as hostages there.

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My parents, who live in a Kyiv suburb on the side of the Russian attacks, were finally able to leave the city for Poland yesterday. I feel full of joy knowing they are moving to safety but terrified for millions of others who have their lives in danger.

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So, what do we have so far? I am looking at the public reaction and see diversified groups quite distinctive in their positions. There are some who happily consider that the war is “almost over” since the world is finally starting to implement economic sanctions. There are some who remain indifferent to what is going on in the world in the hope that the crisis will not affect them. And there are some who have learned nothing from history.

By saying that it is a war of democracy against Putin (rather than the war of democracy against fascism), we underestimate the problem and overestimate the actions.

Putin’s Russia is not acting alone. Neither did Hitler’s Germany in the Second World War. The implemented economic sanctions may have some impact, but it will be small and slow as long as Putin gets an external support from other countries.

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International political actions are too diversified and do not show unity of nations. Meanwhile the supporters of Russian aggression do not bear any consequences. Until this changes, I am doubtful we will see the real impact of the sanctions.

On an individual level, we need to accept that, similar to Germany in the 1930s, many Russians support the military aggression against Ukraine.

Of course, there are some brave, wise individuals understanding what is going on and actively standing up against the war, risking their lives. But, if you look at the geographical size of the country, it is not that many.

Meanwhile the world is actively trying to avoid taking real actions against Putin’s fascist regime – Putin’s Russia. This grows out of a fear of a ‘Third World War’, but will it really help to avoid it?

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Putin and the United Nations now remind me of a spoiled child and his babysitter.

All parents know that satisfying all demands of a screaming, manipulating child is a bad parental behaviour, only leading to more demands and even naughtier behaviour in the future.

In 1938, the UK signed an agreement with fascist Germany out of the fear of the Second World War. The same fear that exists now. Fascist Germany used the gained time productively to strengthen their military and ally with other countries – a situation remarkably reminiscent of what is happening today while the United Nations is not united any more.

Everyone holds their breath over the side that currently neutral China is going to take. While China has commercial reasons to support Russia, pro-active negotiations could change the balance towards peace.

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The misunderstanding of the situation of Ukrainian drama is linked to two human qualities: unlimited optimism and judgment of the behaviour of others by our own values.

We humans underestimate the risk of the negative events, being always hopeful that the worst will not happen – whether it is to run across the street in front of the bus, to ignore global warming or to continue considering that the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine will not touch you personally.

It seemed insane for someone in our modern times to start bombing the biggest by territory country in Europe, just bordering with the European Union, but no one said that the person who made this decision is sane.

For now, the only practical solution was proposed by Alex Konanykhin, the Russian businessman living in the USA, announcing a $1m reward to anyone who captures Putin as a war criminal. Ukraine has already paid much higher price though.

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In the end, I would like to thank everyone who continues to stand with Ukraine. We do not know whether our deeds will lead to the desired impact, but we do know that nothing happens without small, incremental actions. Similarly, we also know that it is 
standing together and supporting each other in the darkness what makes us all humans.”

From one Ukrainian living in Sheffield.