Ukrainian resistance to Russian evil has several dimensions. The first and most important is the front line. I don't think we can talk about a cultural, economic or diplomatic front. We only have one front line. That is where the Russian enemy is fought, where our defenders die and suffer terrible wounds.
But the war and the death it entails cut across Ukraine's entire civilian life. The Ukrainian poet and soldier Yaryna Chornohuz once said to me in a conversation in Sloviansk, a city near the front, a terribly accurate phrase about her own experience: "We have learned to live in peace with war."
But it seems to me that, unfortunately, this can be said not only of the Ukrainian military, but of all Ukrainian citizens. War burst into our peaceful lives and changed it forever. The Russians kill and torture civilians, rape Ukrainian women, deport and attempt to Russify our children, destroy our homes, schools, hospitals, libraries, theaters and other cultural institutions, destroy Ukrainian books, steal museum collections. It is a war of genocide against the people of Ukraine.
The Russians are not only physically annihilating us, but once again trying to destroy our historical memory, our language and our culture. This war leaves terrible traces in every aspect of our lives. We will never be the same as we were before the Russian invasion. But I am convinced that we will continue to exist despite Russia's desire to destroy us.
Our faces are full of pain and fatigue. Our eyes are filled with pent-up sadness, but also with hope for a victory over the Russian enemy and, after it, for a peaceful life. A bitter smile is drawn on our lips.
Ukrainian boys stand in front of a building destroyed by a Russian airstrike, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, in a June photo. Photo: AP
But through our inert cheekbones the outline of our indomitable nature is glimpsed. The Russians won't be able to beat us. A criminal herd of oppressed slaves will not be able to overcome a community of free people.
We do not feel hatred towards them, but disgust. Contrа spem spero. I wait hopelessly. It is the title of a poem by the brilliant Ukrainian poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Lesya Ukrainka, who speaks to us through the decades. Hope must overcome pain and sadness even in the most desperate situation. We will defeat Russian wickedness and live in peace and harmony in our own land.
The Russians destroy our homes. They bombard civilian neighborhoods with missiles. After the de-occupation, local residents recount how Russian invaders drove through Ukrainian cities in tanks and fired on homes and schools with tank guns.
They destroy because they believe they have been given the opportunity to do so with impunity. In unoccupied Ukrainian towns and villages, I always hear the same horror story from local residents. Upon arrival, the first thing the Russians organize is a torture chamber. They don't hide it. Everyone needs to know where the torture chamber is. Everyone needs to know where the Russians are torturing Ukrainians. Suffering, terror and pain are the hallmarks of the Russian world of death. Destruction and violence are the main features of the perverted life of Russians.
A march of relatives of Ukrainian soldiers killed or captured by Russian forces, this Saturday in Kyiv. Photo: AFP
The territory of Russia is a territory of hatred of life. The Russians are trying to expand this horror beyond the limits of their failed empire. They plant graves on our land. We bury our heroes. In every Ukrainian city, town and village there are already many graves of those who died in the war against the Russians.
In unoccupied Ukrainian cities there are graves of civilians and prisoners of war killed by the Russians. And we do not know the exact number of victims of Russian aggression, because the Russians torture and kill by throwing the bodies of murdered Ukrainians into reeds, bushes, fields and forests. They also abandon the corpses of their own soldiers on the battlefields, because for them human life is worthless, and the body of the deceased is nothing more than unnecessary garbage.
The Russians kill our children. Our children are dying because of Russian missile strikes. Our future dies. However, the Russians have also ruined the fate of the children they did not get to kill. Because, at the end of the day, our children will carry the horrific experience of war for their entire lives and, unfortunately, they will pass this experience on to their own children.
It is only for the sake of our children that we must defeat Russia. All Russian criminals must be punished. An antidote to the Russian world of death must be invented on our Ukrainian soil. Unfortunately, that antidote is made from our blood and tears.
But we do not seek vengeance, but peace and justice.
*Vakhtang Kebuladze is a Ukrainian philosopher and writer, an expert for UkraineWorld