[The following is an email message on 1 March 2022 from a colleague in Ukraine, which she received from a former doctoral student now living in Kyiv. While English is not the writer’s first language, I’ll post this with very little editing to convey its more personal experience of being in Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion of this free, democratic, and beautiful nation. I’ll keep the spelling of Kharkiv and Kharkov as written as both are used as I understand it.]
“Russians stop shooting at Kharkov.
“Contra spem spero”*
Today, Kharkiv was bombed in the city center. They shoot and bomb at residential areas. The city is shelled and levelled to the ground.
Answer me Russian people, who are you shooting at? Civilians? Old people? Children? They go for bread and medicine, and you shoot at them. How to call it? Although there is a name for this, and a legal qualification will be given to this.
There is geopolitics, there are interests of different countries, including the interests of Russia and the West. It’s a complex and intricate game that I’m not touching on right now. Although you have to touch. But not in this text.
There are many unresolved political issues. And they need to be resolved and unraveled.
But what does my native Kharkov have to do with it? And what about the peaceful and civilian people who live in it?
What are you doing? Stop firing immediately. Do make your political and military leadership to finish with all this immediately.
I can’t ask you, gentlemen of the Russian intellectuals, to come out to rallies. You are an amazing country where they can put you in a paddy wagon and beat you with a truncheon for calling for peace.
You probably do not have to endure all this for my native Kharkov. Probably… Although many of your best people still express their position. And they come out.
But I encourage you to wake up and see what is happening. Hell is practically happening in Kharkiv now. The city doesn’t deserve this. The people who live in the city don’t deserve it.
Russian people – change your mind. I’m generalizing. Intentionally. Stop bombing.
I am not a politician. I am not an official. I even live now not in Kharkov, but in Kyiv. But my relatives and friends live in Kharkov.
Russian people, no one will forgive you for the destroyed Kharkov. Never. You will be hated by everyone indiscriminately. Although this would be wrong. But you can’t command the heart and the mind will fade into the background here.
Stop shooting at the city. Stop shooting at civilians. Stop destroying the cultural capital of Ukraine.
Go back to your home with God from the city. Let him live a normal life. Although it is difficult to call her normal …
“Contra spem spero”*
C. Y., citizen of Ukraine.
It is possible to circulate if you want.”
*The title of a popular Ukrainian poem by Lesya Ukrainka, Contra Spem Spero! Translation: “Away, dark thoughts, you autumn clouds! A golden spring is here! Shall it be thus in sorrow and in lamentation.”