Russia started the war not on February 2022, but on February 2014, — Olexandra Matviichuk

Russia started the war not on February 2022, but on February 2014, when Ukraine got a chance for democratic transformation after the Revolution of Dignity. All these years, many people could “turn off the war” and not see the suffering during the occupation, not read the reports from the front lines. After February 24, this is no longer possible because Russian aggression has become a part of our lives.

Russia is using the pain of the civilian population to break down resistance and occupy the country. Russia killed Serhiy Podlyanov, who was only two days old, in a maternity hospital in Vilnyansk, and 74-year-old agricultural entrepreneur Oleksiy Vatadruskyi, by targeting at his home in Mykolaiv.

War turns people into numbers. But behind each of these numbers, there is a real human destiny.

Together with our partners, we created the initiative “Tribunal for Putin”. Together we document every criminal episode that happened in the smallest village of each oblast. Because only justice can restore people’s names, and with them – human dignity. Because every person’s life matters.

But despite all the horror that Ukrainians are facing, they are cultivating the best in themselves.

Creativity. We learned how to warm ourselves at home with a brick, how to light an apartment with a single diode, and how to cook with a tourist heating pad. We have invented new words like “cotton”/”бавовнятко” and “Chernobaitu”/”чорнобаїти”. Our military is mastering new weapons at a speed that astonishes our international partners. People who have never had anything to do with the military know all about thermal imagers, and those who have only heard of international law are now talking about a special tribunal to bring Putin, Lukashenko and other war criminals to justice.

Unity. When international organizations were evacuating their staff, ordinary people started doing extraordinary things. Ordinary people evacuated the population of besieged cities under constant shelling and made their way there with humanitarian aid. Thousands of families opened the doors of their homes to shelter people who had lost their homes to Russian aggression. We supported each other in bomb shelters and during power outages. Russia decided to destroy civilian infrastructure, and in response, people in house chats invited neighbors to cook on their gas stoves.

Help. Volunteering has become our national religion. We help the country and people to survive – with money, things and many good deeds. Volunteers have become a reliable rear for soldiers on the front line.

Strength. I don’t wish anyone to go through what Ukrainians are going through today. Russia is waging a dirty war, violating all international rules. But this dramatic time gives us the opportunity to reveal our best qualities – to fight for freedom, to be brave, to make difficult but right choices, to help each other. Now, as never before, we are acutely aware of what it means to be human.

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