Making Sense of War In Ukraine

Jane Palash


Full-context overview for my international friends.

I’m curious what history books will claim Putin’s motivation was, I wonder if he’s deadly sick and cares no more if he takes the whole continent to hell with him. As a Ukrainian, I’ll try to explain to the best of my ability what is happening, in the simplest way, with all the context.

Ukrainian context

Big part of Ukrainian culture and art is dedicated to Russia not allowing us to live in peace. Through this lens, what’s happening right now fits the tradition, only it’s not 1776. We’ve been either dreaming of getting away from Moscow, actively fighting to get away from them, or celebrating getting away from them for about 500 years.

A few important side notes:

  1. Kyiv and Kyivska Rus are much older than Moscow. Kyiv was founded around in 482 AD (yep) and Moscow was first mentioned as a place around 1147 AD. We were here first. We prospered and ran commerce across the continent while most of Russia was a deep, dark forest.
  2. Russia had imperial sickness for centuries. They frantically amassed territory and stole lands at any opportune moment. They had some good days, even before the Soviet Union they already held a huge chunk of the continent, including Ukraine, Belarus, and Baltic countries. And then during the USSR they kept most of it and even expanded a little bit. As you can guess, downsizing from that must’ve felt like a personal offence to Russia. The idea that countries have their own culture and history never occurred to them. They must think Spain and the UK total weaklings for giving up their colonies.

Post-WWII context

The fear of mutual annihilation by nuclear winter made everyone quiver and pledge to maybe not do it even if we really-really want to and are very-very angry with each other. Hope for the flowering future and joy from the center-moustache-sporting guy shooting himself in the basement and thus collapsing his rabid empire made Ukraine kind and naive. We gave up our third world biggest nuclear arsenal in return for guarantees of territorial integrity and protection. The United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom swore to keep us safe. That’s the gist of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.

Can you imagine now how livid it makes us to see the same guy who swore to protect us bomb our cities while the other two stand and watch?

Putin’s Russia context

Over the last two decades, the idea of civil rights, activism, accountability, and change has been intentionally and painstakingly erased from the Russian narrative. Paired with insane, almost Chinese level of propaganda and a deep, sticky net of lies permeating most media, Stalin-grade level of persecution of opposition, jail and poison for those who dare to object — all of it resulted in a passively-drugged society where most are dimly agreeing with the TV and the rest are terrified for their lives and can’t imagine voicing their concern.

The narrative crafted around Ukraine is flimsy but it worked until now. Russia was saving us from the nationalistic government, from the American influence, from ourselves, from the rampage that was going in our cities, specifically in the East. It’s only now when my home city is being bombed some of Russians are rubbing their eyes like, wait, I can’t believe this, we’re not the good guys? We thought we were saving them but it’s increasingly hard to see how rockets are a peacekeeping mission (amiright, US?).

Right now the narrative fluctuates between saving us from the nationalists and de-militarizing to just plain old returning Ukraine to Russia. As we all know, we’re not actually independent and sovereign because to quote Putin, “The fall of the Soviet Union was the biggest tragedy of the 20th century.” Not kidding, he said that. Not Auschwitz, not Hiroshima, the establishment of the sovereign countries in the region. Big, big grief.

War overview 2 days in

  1. Most main cities bombed, so far mainly military infrastructure with some casualties.
  2. Movement of military deeper into the country with the aim to take the capital and install Russian-controlled government. Imagine France invading Germany and installing French government in Berlin.
  3. People sleeping in subways as shelters. People hiding in bathrooms. People taking up arms without ever having held a gun before. In the heart of Europe in 2022.
  4. Kyiv is under siege on all fronts but still stands, still Ukrainian.

Ukraine is fighting for their land. Our people are united, fierce, and astoundingly brave. Russia is run by an isolated and very mentally ill person who needs to be put down, like a dangerous animal. What’s happening is war crimes, multiple violations of international laws, killing of civilians, and occupation of a territory of an independent country for absolutely no reason other than the senile delusion of one power-drunk dictator.

Here’s an audio transcript of 13 soldiers on the Zmiinyi (Snake) island in the Black Sea.

“This is a Russian warship. I propose you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary victims. Otherwise you will be bombed.”

“Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”

They were killed immediately after.

This quote will become history. This war will become a lesson. I only wish it weren’t my parents and friends who have to pay the price to have it taught to the rest of the world.

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