The war in Ukraine: This is no time for proving your point

Wherever people take up arms, fairness ends. It is useless to argue who is right and who is wrong. The borders of war will continue expanding as long as both sides justify human death. Olga Allyonova argues that we are losing our moral perspective on the conflict in Ukraine.

Click to enlarge the image. Drawing by Natalia Mikhaylenko

I do not understand why Russians cross the border and fight in a foreign state. I do not understand why the Ukrainian artillery fires upon peaceful towns. I do not understand why no one in the world, including in my country, is demonstrating against the war. Why doesn't Russia's civilian society demand the closing of the border and block the passage of "the militias?" Why doesn't Ukrainian society demand a cease to the shelling of towns full of peaceful civilians?

I do not understand this war and I do not want to understand it. But I no longer wish to prove to anyone who is right and who is wrong. I've started avoiding these discussions in social networks. Entering a discussion, you are obliged to take sides.

We are made this way - if we are convinced of our rightness, we first try to prove it and then we try to justify someone's death, someone's pain, someone's suffering. If a Ukrainian plane is shot down, creating dozens of widows and orphans, it means the Ukrainians are to blame because they are firing at the self-proclaimed republics, at towns with civilian populations, and so they got their just deserts.

If a town is shelled and the streets are filled with dead bodies and crying women, then it's the "terrorists and separatists" that are to blame and the Ukrainians are just establishing order. And if someone says, "People, stop, try to empathize with the other's suffering," he'll immediately be asked of which "bloodthirsty regime" he is a supporter, the Russian or the Ukrainian.

During war no one is right and no one is to blame. The members of the Ukrainian armed forces who have died in planes that have been shot down were carrying out an order - no one knows what they were thinking about or whether they wanted to fight or not.

Their wives and children, who will never see them again, are victims of this war. The people living in the towns that are being shelled by Ukrainian forces are victims of this war. There are more and more victims; the war is getting bigger, new participants are being dragged into it.

A Russian thinking that he must help Russians in the Donbass leaves his family, his home, his job, and takes off, not even knowing whether or not he will arrive at his destination. A woman from Lugansk leaves her child with her parents and puts on a military uniform in order to defend her motherland from Ukrainian nationalists.

A bulky ensign prays in a grove outside a Ukrainian town while all around him gunfire is raging, and someone records this on their phone, and the fear this man is feeling can be felt beyond the screen. Those who died on the Maidan, in the trade union building in Odessa, and the thousands of residents of Ukrainian towns who do not know if they will live to see tomorrow - they are all victims of the war.

The war is close. By justifying it, defending one or the other side, we are already fighting. Frothing at the mouth and trying to prove in social networks who is right and who is to blame, we did not see that we ourselves have become victims of the war.

We thought that there would be a little war in a neighboring country, that we would gain something and it would end there. And that we could watch, discuss it, make our conclusions and continue living.

But the flywheel is in full motion and it is becoming more and more difficult to stop. Yet stopping it is vital, because now it is heading in our direction.

The shot down Boeing is an answer to the question of whether we are involved in the war. Yes, we are all involved. Each and every one of us. Sooner or later it will include us. When Muscovites brought flowers to the Dutch Embassy with the words "forgive us," this created a stir of emotions.

Some said: “Why should we blame Russia if it is unproven who shot down the Boeing?” Others said it was correct to admit that Russia was guilty. Even in this situation people were pointing fingers, justifying and by and large using the tragedy to prove their rightness. There was just one Muscovite who asked for forgiveness, despite the reasons. Because he is alive, while those who were flying in the Boeing are not.

The global community, which for decades has tried to develop mechanisms for preventing conflicts and their immediate solutions, cannot do anything today to stop the war. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia bear witness to the fact that humanity is not really trying so hard to prevent and stop them.

You can find an official culprit - Russia, America, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, [president of the first, unrecognized Chechen Republic] Dzhokhar Dudayev - but this will be a culprit for only one side, not for the other.

Wherever someone takes up arms, fairness ends. If a man takes up arms, it is no longer important what his motives are. They can be good, but sooner or later he'll be on the side of evil.

There is a film in which the protagonist, a priest, says, "The Bible says 'do not kill.' And there is no asterisk next to this word, no footnote indicating that the precept refers only to particular situations. Just do not kill, that's all."

Evil can be countered only with goodwill: by helping refugees and those who need help; with money, clothes, prayer - whatever one is capable of. Not by watching TV, arguing in social networks, insulting and belittling others. By not becoming a weapon of this war. They say that while there is more good, while evil has not reached a critical mass, the world will not perish. But if it perishes, everyone will be to blame, not just someone, but each and every one of us, all of us.

Olga Allyonova is a journalist and special correspondent for the Kommersant Publishing House. She reported on the terrorist acts in the Nord-Ost siege at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater and in Beslan, as well as on events in the Caucasus, including in Ingushetia, South Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Georgia, Abkhazia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. She is the author of the book Chechnya is Near and has received numerous prestigious awards.

First published in Russian in Ogonyok.

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