In defense of sovereignty: Ukraine’s perseverance with the world behind them
A month ago, I wrote a column on whether the United States should get involved in the Russia-Ukraine crisis; I wrote that “it’s undeniable that both countries are trying to one-up one another through a game of chicken, seeing who will back down first and if the U.S. can succumb to any of Russia’s demands.” To the surprise of the entire world, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not bluffing as he entered troops in Ukraine just last week. As a result, an incredible amount of countries and major technology companies imposed various sanctions, plummeting the value of the Russian economy.
What Putin promised, military exercises on the Ukraine border (though, honestly, why would an army be doing “military exercises” with hundreds of thousands of troops?), turned into a full-on invasion before the month was over. So the world watched as buildings turned to rubble, missiles exploded in the streets and tanks ran over whatever got in their way. However, Putin undoubtedly did not predict the strength of Ukraine’s response as well as the rest of the world since, by the end of the first week of the war, Ukrainian casualties totaled up to just over 700 while Russian deaths reached an estimated almost 6,000, according to Ukrainian army headquarters.
Demonstrations erupted across the globe, including protests in Russia that led to thousands of people being arrested for going against the government. A “live updates” site regarding the Russia-Ukraine war has become a permanent tab on many of our laptops, myself included, with alerts coming in at least three times every hour. I watched as the spotlight shined on my family’s home country of Poland as they accepted thousands of refugees fleeing from Ukraine. Men would drop off their wives and children near the Polish-Ukrainian border before driving back to the main cities; all men from ages eighteen to sixty were barred from leaving the country due to the draft being enacted. Even though only men in the aforementioned age range are required to fight against Russia, anyone can join the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Territorial Defense Forces to fight for Ukraine, including foreigners.
As pictured in a New York Times article, women, both young and old, have also joined the fight. The caption in the article reads, “Julia, a teacher and Ukrainian volunteer, wept as she waited to be deployed to fight Russian troops around Kyiv on Saturday.”
Hundreds of thousands of weapons have been shipped from varying countries around the world, including the U.S., as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has “urged citizens to defend the country from Russian forces and said weapons would be issued to everyone who comes forward.” For those who cannot or do not want to go into hand-to-hand combat, especially those younger than sixteen who cannot fight in the military, many are making Molotov cocktails, donating blood and removing road signs to confuse incoming Russian tanks, etc.
Morale remains high and unwavering as more join the fight. Seventy-year-old Orest Gaworsky said, “I’m too old to run with a gun, but I can sit and shoot. We will shoot, we will make Molotov cocktails, we will do everything,” he added, “We’ll fight them with pitchforks!” When asked about Ukrainian citizens’ response to Putin’s “special military mission,” democracy activist Boris Redin stated that “everything that Russia always threatened us with is now happening.” He said, “Now we’re simply forced to fight back and defend ourselves. But we’ll do it with fun and pleasure.” There seems to be a common denominator in the citizens of Ukraine: All are willing to fight for their country until their last breath. And as the war unfolds, it seems more evident that Putin did not expect such resistance.
This is the first major war our generation has experienced, and the way it’s being documented through social media is even more incredible. Ukrainians have taken to Twitter and TikTok to show the state of their country, create how-to survival guides and set up foundations for people to donate money in support of Ukraine. Many accounts have only popped up since the start of the crisis in order to bring awareness and give a first-hand account of a war-torn country. My favorite TikTok profiles that have essentially created a video diary are ian.1193.backup and valerisssh, both of which I highly recommend. As the world becomes more involved with the current situation, not excluding the United States, there is without a doubt going to be a third installment of this mini-series through BridgeND on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Hopefully, there will be better news to come as countries put aside their differences and work together to persevere in freedom and individuality against authoritarianism and greed-spurred barbarity.
Isabel Olesinski is a sophomore living in Johnson Family Hall double majoring in political science and English with a minor in constitutional studies and a creative writing concentration. She serves as the Director of Operations for BridgeND. Fun fact, she is a part of ND’s premier theater club, the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company!
BridgeND is a student-led discussion club that is committed to bridging polarization in politics and educating on how to engage in respectful and productive discourse. BridgeND welcomes students of all backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences who want to strengthen their knowledge of current issues or educate others on an issue that is important to them. The club meets weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in DeBartolo Hall 217. Want to learn more? Contact [email protected] or @bridge_ND on Twitter and Instagram.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.