I am writing on March 16, 2022. I have been communicating with former colleagues, friends and students in Ukraine in the ensuing years, but also daily and hourly during Putin’s illegal and immoral invasion of a sovereign state. When they say “We will never forgive” and “We will never forget” I believe them. I also believe them when they say “We will not lose.” In my mind, and perhaps in the eyes of the world, Ukrainians have already won the moral fight. They have won the information war. They are standing up to Russia when no one else will.
Early in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his missiles burned an irreplaceable trove of original Ukrainian art by Maria Prymachenko. On Friday March 11, his missiles struck Dnipro, dangerously near the city’s historic palace of culture. Along with hospitals and schools, residences, community centers and bus routes, Putin is targeting culture.
The culture – the artists, singers, writers and poets – are fighting back with their best tools, keeping culture alive in subway stations and bunkers. Witness novelist Oksana Zabuzhko’s searing speech to the United Nations for International Women’s Day this year. Consider poet Taras Shevchenko (b. 1814), whose birthday March 9 prompted Ukrainians to recall these famous lines:
Fight – you’ll win the fight,
God is helping you!
Behind you stands the truth,
Behind you stands the glory,
And sacred liberty as well!
Taras Shevchenko, 1845 (Translation by Peter Fedynsky)
One need not, however, look to history to see the resolve of Ukraine’s writers, artists, singers and dancers. Recall that just last week a wounded woman with shrapnel throughout her body composed a poem on her stretcher in a hospital amid bombing outside – a poem about how Ukraine will survive and thrive despite the onslaught from Russia.